Is it hateful and mean-spirited to say illegal alien? Recently Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), received national attention because of a report that Twitter blocked his organization from promoting a paid tweet mentioning illegal aliens.  

According to Krikorian, Twitter stated the CIS ad violated its policy against “Hateful Content.” The “offensive” tweet is posted below:

CIS’s reference to “Illegal aliens made the otherwise innocuous tweet harmful.” In this instance, Twitter is wrong.  

In their zeal to protect individuals from hurtful words, Twitter employees flagged the U.S. government’s official designation for foreign nationals. U.S. Legal gives this definition of an illegal alien:

An Illegal alien or an Undocumented alien or worker is a foreign national who has entered the United States without legal permission, authorization or inspection; or who entered the U.S. legally but has since fallen out of status by overstaying or by violating the terms of legal entry. An illegal alien is subject to deportation if apprehended.

Twitter officials are either unaware or indifferent to how the government has classified foreign national for decades.  

CIS and other organizations are correct to use the official governmental designation to refer to persons in the country who lack proper papers. Other people may prefer to use euphemisms or to refer to these individuals as undocumented immigrants, unauthorized foreigners, or immigrants.

Traditionally, the legal definition for an immigrant is referred to as a person who entered another country legally with the intent of becoming a permanent resident. Although becoming a permanent resident might be the true motivation of millions of America’s undocumented foreigners, the decision to enter and reside in the country does not automatically make one an immigrant. 

Therefore, Twitter executives owe CIS a BIG apology. 

Dr. Carol M. Swain is an award-winning political scientist, a former professor of political science and professor of law at Vanderbilt University, and a lifetime member of the James Madison Society, an international community of scholars affiliated with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. Before joining Vanderbilt in 1999, Dr. Swain was a tenured associate professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Swain is host of the podcast Be The People, here on the America Out Loud Podcast Network. Passionate about empowering others to raise their voices in the public square she is an author, public speaker, and political commentator. Dr. Swain is the author or editor of eight books with a ninth forthcoming in 2018.