Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Justice Sotomayor locates a euphemism 

Justice Sotomayor has rendered her first opinion, and it spoke for a unanimous Court. The headline story describes a "retort" from Justice Thomas, but that is hardly the newsworthy bit if you are a conservative (we certainly hope Justice Thomas would issue a "retort"!). No, you have to get to the last two paragraphs for the good stuff:

In an otherwise dry opinion, Justice Sotomayor did introduce one new and politically charged term into the Supreme Court lexicon.

Justice Sotomayor’s opinion in the case, Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, No. 08-678, marked the first use of the term “undocumented immigrant,” according to a legal database. The term “illegal immigrant” has appeared in a dozen decisions.

Am I the only one who is disappointed that our first Hispanic Justice decided to go all politically correct on the question of illegal immigration in her very first opinion? Righties who opposed her confirmation will no doubt find a sort of sorry vindication in this. Me, I just think it is unprofessional.

Now, lefty blogs think that this is welcome relief from the use of the word "illegal," which is considered "pejorative and offensive" when used to modify "immigrant." Unfortunately, the adjective "illegal" is also a lot more accurate. "Undocumented" is not necessarily true -- the existence of these people, and even many of them as individuals, has been well and truly documented. Moreover, many of them have documents, albeit forged or stolen ones. Such immigrants are, however, manifestly illegal.

Recognizing that the price of clarity is the risk of offense, our first Hispanic Justice has decided to opt for ethnic identity rather than crystalline prose. I, for one, think we ought to get better from the winner of the Pyne Prize.


By Anonymous Brian Schmidt, at Wed Dec 09, 02:20:00 PM:

It's "euphemism", TH. Former editor, so I have to nitpick.  

By Blogger showbiz111, at Wed Dec 09, 02:25:00 PM:

I guess that I am an "undocumented US Supreme Court Justice". I am sooo happy to be part of the club now, since laws don't matter, Ms. S!  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Dec 09, 02:57:00 PM:

Goddamn I suck at spelling. Thx.  

By Anonymous SouthernRoots, at Wed Dec 09, 03:53:00 PM:

It is good to know that violating Federal law is now no longer "illegal", only "undocumented".

Next time I decide to not file my tax return, I will be only an "undocumented" taxpayer.

I feel so much better with this latest example of "clarity" in a Supreme Court ruling, that darn legal dictionary was to stifling in the meaning of words and words in laws.


By Anonymous Formerly known as Skeptic, at Wed Dec 09, 04:42:00 PM:

If I'm not mistaken, the most correct legal term is the old-school "illegal alien." Euphemisms are for massagers of public opinion like politicians and advocates. Judges are supposed to deal with facts.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Dec 09, 09:33:00 PM:

There is no problem currently facing our country that is not made worse by illegal aliens.

PC Speak is just one of these problems.  

By Anonymous Blacque Jacques Shellacque, at Thu Dec 10, 12:14:00 AM:

Am I the only one who is disappointed that our first Hispanic Justice decided to go all politically correct on the question of illegal immigration in her very first opinion?

What exactly did you expect?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 10, 08:09:00 AM:

People get some perspective.

This case started with an employee who got fired. In his version of the story he was a whistleblower who alerted the company about sloppy employment documentation practices: "90% of the people that come through the temp do not have good papers" -- so in this context "undocumented immigrant" is more accurate than "Illegal immigrant." The company couldn't hire "legal immigrants" without the proper documentation -- get the point.

This appeal was over a nerdish procedural point, On its merits, it had nothing to do with immigrants, illegal or otherwise, and was actually about when you can appeal a lower court discovery order in the middle of the lower court proceedings.

Sonia is "David Souter in a skirt" -- we could have gotten worse. Methinks some of you aren't happy unless she's also called a "dirty Spic," which is one of the reasons the Republican party can't even run a fillibuster these days.  

By Blogger davod, at Thu Dec 10, 10:06:00 AM:

"Sonia is "David Souter in a skirt" -- we could have gotten worse. Methinks some of you aren't happy unless she's also called a "dirty Spic," which is one of the reasons the Republican party can't even run a fillibuster these days."

Dirty Spic WTF?

Tigerhawk - I didn't know Harry Reid followed your blog. The outdated terminology certainly accords with Reid's age.

Fillibuster - then again, Harry would know why the Republicans cannot run a fillibuster. All it would take for the Republicans to run a fillibuster would be for three Democrats to decide to become honest citizens and decry the disonest legislation.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 10, 12:29:00 PM:

Anon@8:09 I'm with you. This is a non-issue and writing about it furthers the stereotype that conservatives are racist.

Conservatives need to get some perspective on the issue of illegal immigration. Is it a problem? Yes. Should we as a society implement policies to reduce it? Yes. Should we vilify the entire Hispanic community simply because lots of poor Mexicans and Central Americans pored over the Southern border to take low-wage and contingent work in the U.S.? No way.

Even the term "undocumented" is a little creepy to anyone old enough to have traveled in Russia and Europe before the wall came down. It's not fun to lie face down on the cement at gunpoint while a uniformed soldier searches through your backpack and wallet for "documents," helping themselves to whatever else they want.  

By Anonymous vicki pasadena ca, at Thu Dec 10, 06:28:00 PM:

Do you not think that those terms are still used. If you think that the derogatory terms towards hispanics are not used anymore, you are living in a dreamworld. The reason so many neocons do not like Sonia is that they see her like that,an undocumented uneducated latina. They are afraid of her brilliance and the possibility of change. Don't give me the blah, blah, blah that conservatives are more accepting than liberals because that is crap.

Oh, BTW, they should be very afraid. Smart competent women are always seen as a threat. Even Ann Coulter, whose political ideas are an anathema to me is perceived as a b#$%^.  

By Anonymous Noel, at Thu Dec 10, 09:21:00 PM:

"Undocumented" makes it sound like you forgot your wallet on the kitchen table in Guadalajara. And that the problem can be solved by simply giving you more documents.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat Dec 12, 09:24:00 PM:

So the three critics' main argument is that they know what we are really thinking, and whatever we might say is nonetheless evidence for our evil motives. Well shucks, I find that incredibly persuasive. Thanks for pointing out what I must really mean. I hadn't realised it.

Anon, in that context, "undocumented" is not a superior term. The purpose of the documents is to provide evidence of legality. That the case was about documents doesn't change that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Dec 13, 10:20:00 AM:

Replacing Souter with Sotomayor likely didn't unbalance the Court. E.g, Republican appointee Souter was in the four vote minority in the New Haven Firefighters case. Hence "Souter in a dress." My point is that Sonia should have been a non-controversial nominee.

Obama isn't dumb, and makes every signifcant decision with political purpose. His appointing Sotomayor played to the Hispanic / Rush Limbaugh political divide. Republicans took the bait -- maybe not as much as Obama wanted, but they did. Hispanics now have another reason to know that they're not welcomed by the Republican party -- the service entrance is out back.

The tone and measure of the early comments here -- even the initial posting -- suggest that many true blood Americans still have a hard-on for Sonia, and not the good kind. Jumping on the use of "undocumented" vs "illegal" in a nerdish procedual appeal suggests folks still question her legitimacy. It's a tell, and an easy one to read.

It'll be difficult for the Republicans to win the Presidency without 40% of the Hispanic vote, 45% of the woman vote, and/or 55% of the Catholic vote. Go figure ....

Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Any More  

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