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Illegal is to immigrant as unwanted is to ...

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Perhaps because I was an English major in college – and wanted to be a journalist since the fifth grade – I always loved the language arts section of standardized tests. A special favorite were the “like” and “as” comparisons in tests like the SAT. I’m referring to statements like these: “White is to rice as blue is to ____ (answer: sky).”

Lately, reading the news has brought to mind some other, more disturbing, “like” and “as” comparisons. Such as:

  • Illegal is to immigrant as unwanted is to child.
  • Alien is to immigrant as fetus is to baby.
  • Caravan is to refugee as blob of cells is to unborn child.
  • Chain migration is to immigrants as overpopulation is to children.

Pro-lifers have always lamented how the pro-choice camp changed the language to dehumanize the unborn, in order to normalize the unthinkable – a mother killing her own child in the womb.

Changing the language proved a key precursor to changing the laws. The point of argument switched from the right to life of an unborn child to a woman’s right to choose what to do with “her own” body. Such language even works to obscure scientific facts about pregnancy and fetal development, because it elevates one person’s rights above another’s.

Sadly, I see the same thing happening with immigration. This is not an argument for moral equivalency between abortion and legal or illegal immigration. It is an argument against the use of language that dehumanizes another, that elevates one person’s dignity above that of “the other” – the unwanted, the unloved, the stranger. A language that can – and has, in the not-so-distant past – led down a very slippery slope.

Politicians and people of good faith, intent on doing the best for their country, can have civilized debates about the most effective ways of regulating immigration – the methods, the checkpoints, the rules. But even talk about “protecting” borders evokes the vocabulary of war. What do we need protection from? An invasion? Just like an unborn child “invades” the womb of her mother?

Too often in recent times immigrants and refugees have been characterized as invaders, as grifters, as an infestation, as hordes, as marauders bent on harming our nation or our American way of life. Doesn’t that recall the oft-stated reasons for abortion? To preserve women from poverty and all the other ills that accompany pregnancy and childbirth?

So let’s watch our language on immigration before our discussion degrades any further. If we are truly pro-life, if we truly believe and uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, our talk must match our walk.

People, like babies, can never be illegal. Human beings can never be compared to infestations or invasions. And as Archbishop Thomas Wenski often says, people are not problems, let alone problems to be “gotten rid of” – be they outside our borders or inside the womb.

Comments from readers

Lidia Lidia Valli - 01/22/2019 11:43 AM
Thank you, Ana, for alerting us to be mindful of how we label people. To choose our words carefully help us to respect each human being. May God bless you!
Hope Sadowski - 01/22/2019 11:36 AM
As always a very well written opinion. Most disagree with you in your comparison of abortion/immigration. The United State has every right to protect its borders and allow legal immigration like all other countries in a peaceful and orderly way. It is the bombardment of the border by anyone who wants to come in and thinks they have a right to it. They are all welcome.... the legal way.
VICTOR M martell - 01/21/2019 07:30 PM
Gracias Ana por este valiente articulo, son muchos los que se esconden en palabreras balades y no comprenden que ellos o sus padres en un remoto tiempo fueron inmigrantes en este pas. Porque este gobierno tiene muchos adeptos? Porque siempre fueron anti inmigrantes y anti hispanos y nunca han estado de acuerdo con los que defendemos a los que nada tienen, queridos hermanos los que vienen a este pas lo hacen porque salen huyendo de las miserias econmicas, polticas y abusos en sus pases. Quieren terminar con la inmigracin? Vamos a erradicar la pobreza de la faz de la tierra y acabaremos con ella; pero no con curitas sino con un trabajo de equilibrar la riqueza y acabar con los politicos corruptos de nuestros pases.
Gustavo - 01/21/2019 12:57 PM
Dear Ana: Thank you for writing this article. No disagreement on the abortion parts they are spot on. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with other parts of it. Terms such as illegal aliens, undocumented aliens etc. Are simply legal terms and are not used to disparage people? Its the same as if a person was found guilty of a crime in court. That person would be labeled as a convicted felon. The term does not take away the fact that felon is still a person. What I find most disturbing is the use of Gospel passages by some Bishops and Priests to push their own personal ideological agenda on immigration. This is unacceptable. The Gospel is Divine Revelation for the salvation of souls. It is not some sort of political tool to wielded at opponents who may have a difference of opinion on a prudential issue such as this. Another issue I have is that some Bishops and Priests have no problem labeling those that disagree with them (again on this prudential issue) as xenophobic and racist. Many of whom are their own flock. Lastly, and most offensive of all is the idea that has been floated around by the many in the hierarchy- that the Holy Family were illegal aliens! Not only is this factually incorrect it is borderline Blasphemous!
Adolfo Costa - 01/21/2019 12:41 PM
Apreciada Ana Rodriguez Soto. Tengo el gusto de felicitarla por su elegante estilo de expresion tanto en ingles como en espaol. No puedo decir lo mismo en cuanto al contenido. Siendo yo un intenso opositor a toda forma de abortos por la gravedad de esos crmenes, ahora a la sombra de sus ideas me siento acusado de aborcionista porque soy actualmente un fervoroso contrario a la inmigracin ilegal.En cuanto a su juego de palabras yo noto ciertas inexactitudes: 1) no todos los inmigrantes son o tienen que ser "ilegales", mientras que todos los nios por nacer deben ser, si no deseados, al menos respetados en sus vidas.2) todos los inmigrantes deben dejar de se extranjeros en su nuevo pais, mientras que todos los fetos deben evolucionar en bebes.3) Las masas de celulas pertenecen a la naturaleza de bebe por nacer, mientras que la "caravanas" de ilegales extrajeros no tiene razon de ser como gestos de imposicion contra las naciones civilizadas.4) Finalmente, migracion en cadena y loteria de visas son a inmigracion como un huracan a nuestro estado de la Florida, desorden y falta de control.Tengamos cuidado dice Vd:" Por eso, tengamos cuidado con la manera en que hablamos sobre inmigracin antes de que nuestra discusin se envilezca ms. Si de verdad somos pro vida, si de verdad creemos y defendemos las enseanzas de la iglesia catlica, tenemos que predicar con el ejemplo" Cierto, pero no obstante todo el amor y la misericordia con que se revista la inmigracion ilegal, siempre sera ilegal mientras tengamos leyes en nuesro pais.Incluso los 10 mandamientos son leyes, y la Iglesia tiene su propio cuerpo de leyes.
james - 01/21/2019 11:19 AM
Dear Ana Rodriguez Soto and beloved, Blessed are we everyday to have been given the gift of life. Thank you so much for standing up against abortion. Your statement is beautifully written, "The point of argument switched from the right to life of an unborn child to a womans right to choose what to do with her own body. Such language even works to obscure scientific facts about pregnancy and fetal development, because it elevates one persons rights above anothers." Please let us all stand up against abortion!!!! Now, I have been to 54 countries and lived in at least 6 of them for over a year each. Female babies are aborted because they are female. I have lived in Asia and the middle east for over ten years. I filled out a ton of paperwork and spent months getting my wife to the USA LEGALLY and paid a lot of money. BUILD the Wall, support President Trump. Pray to Mary Mother of God and Jesus please bless us all. In Unity,

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