The Semantics of Amnesty


Filed Under Latest News on May 22 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that DAPA must remain on hold while Texas and 25 other states pursue their appeals of the executive action, or directive, that Obama issued last November. The court agreed with critics and stated that DAPA – Deferred Action for Parents – goes beyond non-enforcement and confers a ” ‘lawful presence’ on a class of unlawfully present aliens.” It is interesting that the Fifth Circuit did not use the term illegal aliens. The difference between an illegal alien and an unlawful alien is one of degrees it seems, and an intentional construction on the part of those inside and outside the administration that is intended to provide a pathway to naturalization. In other words, it is the language of amnesty. Children born in the U.S. to illegals is the bridge, if you will, between illegal and unlawful and lawful; a defining away of the problem by reclassifying those who have spent enough time in the country and who have children born in the country.

Will DAPA eventually collapse under a negative Supreme Court ruling? It will be vital to see how the top court defines the terms illegal and unlawful and lawful. If one wades into the semantics, illegal is something specifically forbidden by law, while unlawful is something not authorized by law. So it is a degree less criminal, if you will, than illegal. But the Fifth Circuit took on the slightly more forgiving term, rather than stubbornly sticking with the term illegal, and found DAPA had gone too far, even if the measure was unlawful rather than illegal.

It is not quibbling to examine the semantics around illegal immigration. The Latino-Hispanic community in the U.S. has long used the term indocumentado as a euphimism for illegal alien. But they mean far more, or less perhaps, than that with the term undocumented or indocumentado. It is a re-definition of what an immigrant who has broken the laws is. It is a defining-away of the immigration laws of the country to justify their breaking of those very laws. While DAPA is not quite as frontal in it’s disregard for America’s borders, it treads the same path, with perhaps an ounce more of stealth. Or at least self-proclaimed pragmatism. But unlike the semantic bravado and pugnaciousness of the term indocumentado, DAPA will have to face the very legal semantics of the courts. The Fifth Circuit has not given much hope to those demanding amnesty. Whether in the Oval Office or across the country. Whether for unlawful aliens. Or for Illegal aliens.