Illegal Alien? What’s That?

At Liberty Unyielding, Jerome Woehrle points out an astonishing instance of journalistic ignorance:

The Chicago Tribune falsely reported on October 4 that the term “illegal alien” isn’t used in laws or legal circles. It has since failed to fix the error even though lawyers pointed out its error on Twitter and in correction requests.

The Chicago Tribune made an error on October 4 that it seemingly refuses to fix, out of political correctness. The Tribune’s Cindy Dampier claimed in an article about immigrants that it was a “common misconception” that the term “illegal alien” is a “term used in statutes and in legal circles.” (See the article “How do Chicago’s laws protect immigrants against discrimination.”)

But that’s just wrong. The term “illegal alien” is used in federal and state laws, the Code of Federal Regulations, court briefs, and Supreme Court decisions such as Arizona v. United States (2012).

Of course that is correct. An alien is a person who is not a citizen, and if that person is in the country illegally, he or she is an illegal alien. The term is frequently, and appropriately, used in federal statutes.

The Tribune made this false claim while writing about New York City’s warning to residents that they could be fined up to $250,000 for using the term “illegal alien” in the workplace, rental housing, or public accommodations. Lawyers such as the Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakovsky criticized that warning because ‘illegal alien’ is legal terminology found in laws, court decisions, and court briefs filed by Justice Department lawyers.

I wrote about that New York policy here.

The Tribune’s still-uncorrected piece reflects the fact that, in addition to the obvious bias that permeates the liberal press, many reporters are simply ignorant of basic facts–ignorant, and apparently unwilling to do a simple Google search to check their assumptions. I also wonder, for about the thousandth time, whether newspapers actually employ editors. It is hard to understand how an error this egregious finds its way into print.

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