State and federal officials were investigating the letter, which was written in Spanish and mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. It warns, "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."[Emphasis added.] As the article says, clearly, "immigrants" are by definition naturalized citizens who would then be eligible to register and to cast votes.
Immigrants who are adult naturalized citizens are eligible to vote.
The letter's particularly sinister effect, of course, is to imply that even immigrants - those here legally and eligible to vote (if they've registered, etc) - are ineligible in the same way as those here illegally would be ineligible. As the article points out, a lot of effort goes into bringing immigrants into the political process and encouraging them to vote - so this kind letter draws its potential power right from the natural confusion facing some immigrants who are still navigating the rights and benefits of citizenship.
But here's the thing. If we hadn't, in our effort to scrub clean our language, swapped illegal immigrant for the un-PC illegal aliens moniker, would this letter have been as effective?
There's a lot of intra-community fighting right now, a lot of presumptions and misperceptions, about what The Latino Voter thinks and wants. There's a tendency as well to lump all Hispanics/Latinos/Mexican/Mexican Americans/pick this week's term (I don't even know what to call myself half the time) into one "pro-immigration" category that then gets used to paint us as soft-on-border-security and hippie-loving, knee-jerk lefty freaks.
Except that's wrong.
There's a world of difference between immigrants and those here illegally. That difference absolutely is not accurately conveyed right now with the terms immigration and illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants are not immigrants. They are here illegally.
So why aren't we calling it like it is? At one time, the thinking must have gone that softening "illegal alien" to "illegal immigrant" would humanize immigration policy and the view on those here illegally. Except I think we liberal types might have dug our own graves on that one. Now, no one understands what "immigrant" actually means - and the hundreds of thousands of people who have immigrated to this country have a lot more unnecessary explaining to do and a lot more of other people's baggage to work around.
Of course, we'll never really reform anything language-wise. This is why it's best to avoid rebranding our language. We can't control it too long and the natural consequence is, well, the Bush Administration which has seldom used a word correctly in nearly 6 years.
A side note of interest: this Nguyen guy is also an immigrant - one who used to be a Democrat, at that.