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Vistas: 'Illegal' Or 'Undocumented'? (SLIDESHOW)

First Posted: 08/26/11 09:26 AM ET   Updated: 10/25/11 06:12 AM ET

Welcome to the first installment of Vistas, a regular feature of HuffPost LatinoVoices whereby we will ask prominent Latino thinkers and doers for their perspective on a theme, issue or event which is often cause for a significant discussion within our community and beyond.

Recognizing that Latinos are not a homogeneous group, and yet share a broad range of experiences and legacies, Vistas simply aims to help illustrate different points of view, which in aggregate can present a truer reflection of what the larger community feels and thinks.

This week's theme is:

It seems that people who advocate for immigration reform actively reject usage of the word 'illegal' when referring to undocumented immigrants, and those who have the opposite perspective, choose to actively use the term 'illegal' to represent the these same immigrants.

On the one hand, the legal term 'illegal alien' describes foreign nationals who have entered the U.S. without legal permission, or having entered legally, have since lost that status. In this context, 'illegal' refers to the status of the foreign national. On the other hand, U.S. law distinguishes between entering the country illegally (a criminal act) and overstaying a visa for legal entry (a civil offense).

As Hispanics, we are hyper-aware of the immigration debate and fall on all sides of the issue, but do we all feel the same about the use of the term 'illegal?'

In the slideshow we present the responses received and invite you share your punto de vista and comments below.

Arguing over terminology rather than issues of substance
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"While there are good ethical and linguistic reasons to avoid using the term 'illegal,' I'm not sure it's always worth the fight. It is far too easy for opponents of immigration reform to lambast us as politically correct or hypersensitive. Or they insist that we're misleading citizens about the true terms of the debate, or that we're ashamed of the undocumented. In any case, pretty soon we start arguing over terminology rather than issues of substance, and then we're put on the defensive."

- Daniel Cubias, The Hispanic Fanatic

Flickr photo by: longislandtwins
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The Points Of View
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Filed by Miguel Ferrer  |