The Missing Word in the Immigration Debate

The voting public, disgusted with the Democrats, has decided to try the Republicans for a couple of years. But if a Republican Congress does not win the public’s heart by 2016, it will be ousted as emphatically as it was installed a few weeks ago.

Therefore, Republicans must change their strategy and do what they have so far failed to do: win the war of words and propose alternative programs instead of merely opposing Democratic proposals. In issues such as immigration, the two strategies are closely connected.

Words are the stuff that ideas are made of. If you can control the vocabulary of a discussion, you can usually control the outcome. In warfare, it is axiomatic that one must not let the enemy choose the battleground. But Republicans have been violating that rule for decades by letting the liberals choose the vocabulary of debate.

Of course, liberals are famous for chanting catchphrases, such as "war on women" or “equality”, so incessantly that it takes an effort to remember their falsity. (They have even tried to brand opponents of illegal immigration as “nativist”, which they hoped would be equated to "racist".)  But there’s a deeper and subtler way by which words can breed bias. Liberals choose words that convey subconscious meanings, which they hope will become universally accepted. This kind of political trickery, like stage magic, is based on misdirection: “Don’t look there, look here!”

Note the strident insistence with which liberals demand that we say “reproductive rights” instead of “abortion”, “gender” instead of “sex”, and “undocumented” instead of “illegal”. Each of these word choices hides some aspect of an issue that liberals want to keep hidden.

“Reproductive rights”, an essentially meaningless phrase, focuses on the mother and away from the baby, who is the victim of a homicide. In this respect, conservatives have unwittingly collaborated with liberals by calling themselves “pro-life” instead of “anti-abortion”, thereby failing to direct attention to the ugliness and brutality of abortions.

Similarly, by insisting that homosexuality is a matter of “gender” preference, liberals try to divert attention away from the fact that the primary objection most people have to homosexuality concerns certain grotesque sexual acts.

With regard to immigration, liberals insist on replacing the word “illegal” with “undocumented”, a sly euphemism that suggests that some sort of paperwork error is all that needs to be cleared up. Moreover, by expunging the word “illegal”, liberals have diverted attention away from the key word in the issue so successfully that even conservatives have forgotten it.

The word is “legal”.

In the past few years, I have heard only one politician use it. During the second presidential debate in 2012, Mitt Romney said it, loud and clear:

First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants... We welcome legal immigrants into this country.... we're going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who've come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who've come here illegally.

Everyone else seems to have forgotten that there is a legal way of entering the country. It is, as Romney said, unnecessarily slow and complicated -- which is all the more reason for giving preference to the patient and honorable people who have chosen the legal route.

Obama’s stated plan for legalizing illegal aliens is not only a shameless scheme for stuffing ballot boxes with illegal votes; it is a vicious slap in the faces of the millions of decent people who are trying to enter this country legally.

It is as if the illegal aliens had sneaked in through a backdoor of our country (aided by criminals who jimmied the door open) and then looked out at the legal aliens, waiting patiently in a line at the front door, and shouted “Suckers! There’s an easier way!”

Republicans must therefore redirect discussion to the plight of would-be legal immigrants. They should fill the media with advocacy stories about specific families, from all parts of the world, who are now trying to enter our country legally.

Republicans should also start playing the word game by repeatedly referring to the “war on legal immigrants”. Romney's phrase, “those who've come here illegally take their place,” should become an oft-repeated battle cry. They might also try to redefine “amnesty” to mean that the deported illegal immigrants would not be charged with any crime but simply forced to leave.

Actions must be positive and prompt. Any boxer knows that you can’t win by just parrying your opponent’s blows; you must hit back. The Republicans must prove to the public that they are not “the Party of No” by advancing counterproposals to those of the administration. Those proposals should focus on legal immigration.

They should start, as Romney suggested, by proposing a streamlined system for accepting legal immigrants, with preference to applicants with proficiency in English and with education and skills that we need, such as degrees in science and engineering. Emphasis should also be given, insofar as possible, to screening out potential terrorists.

Moreover, the Republican plan should be based on the principle that deported illegal immigrants be replaced, one-for-one, by increasing the allowed number of legal immigrants. This concept of “replacement” should be the keynote of Republican press releases. Selection should be impartial as to country of origin. Since more than half of illegal immigrants are Mexican, such a concept will probably be favorably received by all other ethnic groups, including Hispanics from other countries.

This, or some equivalent Republican proposal, should have been issued and publicized immediately after Obama’s speech. When Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was our UN ambassador, he insisted on replying to Soviet accusations on the same day that they were hurled at us. This is known in boxing circles as counterpunching. The Republicans should hire a coach like our own David Lawrence to teach them this technique.

The voting public, disgusted with the Democrats, has decided to try the Republicans for a couple of years. But if a Republican Congress does not win the public’s heart by 2016, it will be ousted as emphatically as it was installed a few weeks ago.

Therefore, Republicans must change their strategy and do what they have so far failed to do: win the war of words and propose alternative programs instead of merely opposing Democratic proposals. In issues such as immigration, the two strategies are closely connected.

Words are the stuff that ideas are made of. If you can control the vocabulary of a discussion, you can usually control the outcome. In warfare, it is axiomatic that one must not let the enemy choose the battleground. But Republicans have been violating that rule for decades by letting the liberals choose the vocabulary of debate.

Of course, liberals are famous for chanting catchphrases, such as "war on women" or “equality”, so incessantly that it takes an effort to remember their falsity. (They have even tried to brand opponents of illegal immigration as “nativist”, which they hoped would be equated to "racist".)  But there’s a deeper and subtler way by which words can breed bias. Liberals choose words that convey subconscious meanings, which they hope will become universally accepted. This kind of political trickery, like stage magic, is based on misdirection: “Don’t look there, look here!”

Note the strident insistence with which liberals demand that we say “reproductive rights” instead of “abortion”, “gender” instead of “sex”, and “undocumented” instead of “illegal”. Each of these word choices hides some aspect of an issue that liberals want to keep hidden.

“Reproductive rights”, an essentially meaningless phrase, focuses on the mother and away from the baby, who is the victim of a homicide. In this respect, conservatives have unwittingly collaborated with liberals by calling themselves “pro-life” instead of “anti-abortion”, thereby failing to direct attention to the ugliness and brutality of abortions.

Similarly, by insisting that homosexuality is a matter of “gender” preference, liberals try to divert attention away from the fact that the primary objection most people have to homosexuality concerns certain grotesque sexual acts.

With regard to immigration, liberals insist on replacing the word “illegal” with “undocumented”, a sly euphemism that suggests that some sort of paperwork error is all that needs to be cleared up. Moreover, by expunging the word “illegal”, liberals have diverted attention away from the key word in the issue so successfully that even conservatives have forgotten it.

The word is “legal”.

In the past few years, I have heard only one politician use it. During the second presidential debate in 2012, Mitt Romney said it, loud and clear:

First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants... We welcome legal immigrants into this country.... we're going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who've come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who've come here illegally.

Everyone else seems to have forgotten that there is a legal way of entering the country. It is, as Romney said, unnecessarily slow and complicated -- which is all the more reason for giving preference to the patient and honorable people who have chosen the legal route.

Obama’s stated plan for legalizing illegal aliens is not only a shameless scheme for stuffing ballot boxes with illegal votes; it is a vicious slap in the faces of the millions of decent people who are trying to enter this country legally.

It is as if the illegal aliens had sneaked in through a backdoor of our country (aided by criminals who jimmied the door open) and then looked out at the legal aliens, waiting patiently in a line at the front door, and shouted “Suckers! There’s an easier way!”

Republicans must therefore redirect discussion to the plight of would-be legal immigrants. They should fill the media with advocacy stories about specific families, from all parts of the world, who are now trying to enter our country legally.

Republicans should also start playing the word game by repeatedly referring to the “war on legal immigrants”. Romney's phrase, “those who've come here illegally take their place,” should become an oft-repeated battle cry. They might also try to redefine “amnesty” to mean that the deported illegal immigrants would not be charged with any crime but simply forced to leave.

Actions must be positive and prompt. Any boxer knows that you can’t win by just parrying your opponent’s blows; you must hit back. The Republicans must prove to the public that they are not “the Party of No” by advancing counterproposals to those of the administration. Those proposals should focus on legal immigration.

They should start, as Romney suggested, by proposing a streamlined system for accepting legal immigrants, with preference to applicants with proficiency in English and with education and skills that we need, such as degrees in science and engineering. Emphasis should also be given, insofar as possible, to screening out potential terrorists.

Moreover, the Republican plan should be based on the principle that deported illegal immigrants be replaced, one-for-one, by increasing the allowed number of legal immigrants. This concept of “replacement” should be the keynote of Republican press releases. Selection should be impartial as to country of origin. Since more than half of illegal immigrants are Mexican, such a concept will probably be favorably received by all other ethnic groups, including Hispanics from other countries.

This, or some equivalent Republican proposal, should have been issued and publicized immediately after Obama’s speech. When Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was our UN ambassador, he insisted on replying to Soviet accusations on the same day that they were hurled at us. This is known in boxing circles as counterpunching. The Republicans should hire a coach like our own David Lawrence to teach them this technique.