I just have to get this off my chest. It's been bugging me for years.
A retired Associate Director for Immigration and Refugee Services, and a USCIS board-certified Immigration Counselor for 22 years, from the beginning of the open-borders debate I've been annoyed by the widespread muddling of the textbook meaning of the term immigrant.
For the most part, this muddling has been intentional and has been perpetuated by the Left for the sole purpose of advancing its open-border political agenda. There is no other reasonable explanation.
Not surprisingly, the MSM and many clueless folks on the Right as well have either deliberately or unwittingly adopted the paradoxical and corrupted term "Illegal immigrant" which both adds to the confusion and serves to unfairly legitimize the status of an "illegal alien", aka "undocumented alien" and to de-legitimize the status of an "immigrant".
The short of it is this: by definition an immigrant is a legal entrant. He or she was properly inspected and entered the country legally; thus, from a legal standpoint, describing a person as an "illegal immigrant" is self-contradictory for it erroneously describes an immigrant as illegal. To be clear, an entrant is either legal or illegal--an illegal alien/undocumented alien OR an immigrant. It is impossible to be both illegal AND an immigrant.
FYI: Those formally granted refugee or asylee status, a non-immigrant visa (tourist, working, etc), or immigrant status (family reunification case) are, of course, legal entrants. They were inspected by US authorities (i.e. documented), granted that legal status and permitted to enter the country legally. And only if a refugee, asylee, non-immigrant (visa holder) or immigrant violates the terms of his/her admission, e.g. overstaying one's visa or committing a serious crime, will his/her status revert to that of illegal/removable/deportable.
And this: from a sociological--not legal--standpoint, all persons who enter the country may be correctly described as "migrants" or, loosely, as "immigrant". Just as all citizens are not natural-born citizens, not all migrants/immigrants are legal entrants.
Obviously, the use of oxymoronic term "illegal immigrant" merely adds a patina of legitimacy to an illegal alien's/illegal entrant's/undocumented alien's status. And, of course, that is the tendentious political purpose of many dishonest political hacks and word police on the Left, many of whom should know better.
So, please keep this differentiation in mind the next time you hear someone using the asinine term "illegal immigrant". Call 'em on it.
We are a proud nation of immigrants--NOT illegal aliens, overs-stayers, undocumented aliens, illegal entrants. Pass it on!
And to Justice Sonia Sotomayor who said she was "insulted" that the term "Illegal immigrant" was equated with criminality, here are your choices, Sonia: illegal entrant/undocumented alien/illegal alien OR legal entrant, immigrant, refugee, asylee, non-immigrant. Willfully or inadvertently mixing and matching to accommodate your "feelings" is both irresponsible and ignorant. Remember you are jurist. The Law must trump your sensitivities. And to even the legal neophyte with access to a dictionary understands that "illegal" means unlawful, illicit, criminal. Get over it.
That's it! Gee, I'm feeling better already.