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Sotomayor, Supreme Court Use Term “Undocumented Immigrant” For First Time

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SotomayorAmanda Terkel at Think Progress cites a New York Times article today, in “Sotomayor’s opinion marks the Supreme Court’s first use of the term ‘undocumented immigrant:’”

Yesterday, the Supreme Court “released its first four decisions in argued cases this term,” including one marking Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s debut. The case concerned “whether federal trial-court rulings concerning the lawyer-client privilege may be appealed right away,” to which Sotomayor said no. The New York Times notes one particularly noteworthy part of Sotomayor’s opinion:

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.

Terms like “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” are considered pejorative and offensive by immigrants rights organizations.

Culture Kitchen, a New York political blog, had this to say today about the term “illegal:”

Language matters in politics, especially in this digital age when repetition and redundancy are all what’s needed to establish the use of a term as eternally acceptable in the mainstream. Case in point: “Illegal Alien” is a nativist, bigoted and even bordering on racist term that has become common parlance in mainstream media.