U.C. Berkeley Student Government Bans Discussion of Arizona v. United States

November 9th, 2013

The U.C. Berkeley and UCLA student governments passed resolutions banning the use of the term “illegal immigrant” in the body’s “official discourse.” I appreciate that many people do not like using this term, and find them offensive. But speech codes that ban the usage of these words, especially words that are used in official government documents, are inappropriate, and at a state school, unconstitutional.

In the United States Code, immigrants without status are referred to as “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens.” In the Supreme Court’s decision, in Arizona v. United States, both Justices Kennedy and Scalia used the term used in the statutes, “illegal immigrants” and “illegal aliens.” Under this new policy, students would not be able to even mention parts of these opinions that use these banned phrases, or even discuss much of the section of the Code that governs immigration.

Recall that Justice Sotomayor made some waves when she used the term “undocumented immigrant,” rather than “illegal immigrant,” even though that was not the word used in the statute. Justice Alito even called her out for doing so in a footnote. Though she did use the phrase “illegal alien” during argument in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting (but corrected herself) and Arizona v. United States.

Also, Seattle passed an ordinance banning the use of the word “citizen” by city employees, even though the word is used 22 times in the state constitution.