Commenting on a piece over at Dear Denver, (Link no longer available) I do not, of course, approach this subject with hat in hand. I approach the subject of the enforced disuse of the term “illegal aliens” as representing a pernicious group-think, “newspeak,” if you will–espousing the use of what Ms. Montero believes to be a “…more dignified…” term, presumably “undocumented worker” or “unauthorized immigrant”–as this short clip (Clip, unfortunately vanished from YouTube???) affirms (again, provided by Dear Denver) from a recent Denver City Council Committee meeting.
Seems during a discussion of the imminent renewal of a Denver Public Works (DPW) contract, a DPW functionary used the term “illegal alien,” with regard to issues affecting the renewal of that contract. The specific issue was articulated, per an e-mail purported to come from DPW, as follows:
…We spoke with Sean Sullivan in the City Attorney’s office and he informed us there is a State statute, House Bill 1343 that requires we include a clause in all contracts with the language “illegal aliens”. Sullivan said changing the language in city contracts will create ambiguity and will not be in compliance with the statute.
However, PW will not use the term in any verbal references, such as in council meetings, PW committee meetings, etc. It will be our immediate policy to begin using the term unauthorized immigrants in all references excluding the actual contract language. If there is another term you would prefer, please let us know.
Not to be picky, but the referenced House Bill 1343 is titled, “DNA Testing for all Felons.” So, of course the reference was incorrect (unless, the pertinent House Bill was from a prior year). The operative reference should have been, I believe, CRS 8-17.5-102, Titled: “Illegal aliens – prohibition – public contracts for services.” Said Statute–and the issue which the DPW functionary alluded to–provides, in part:
(1) A state agency or political subdivision shall not enter into or renew a public contract for services with a contractor who knowingly employs or contracts with an illegal alien to perform work under the contract or who knowingly contracts with a subcontractor who knowingly employs or contracts with an illegal alien to perform work under the contract. Prior to executing a public contract for services, each prospective contractor shall certify that, at the time of the certification, it does not knowingly employ or contract with an illegal alien and that the contractor has participated or attempted to participate in the basic pilot program in order to verify that it does not employ any illegal aliens.
The statute utilizes the descriptive, legally to-the-point term “illegal alien” twelve times and provides that state agencies and political subdivisions of the state (this includes Denver) must use due diligence to preclude the “knowingly” hiring of “illegal aliens” by contractors when the state or any political subdivision thereto enters into or renews a public contract for services. As a consequence of this statute, political subdivisions of the State, like Denver, are presumably complying with the intent of the statue by tweaking current contract “boilerplate” language in order to comply with the requirements of state law.
Now, if you’ve watched the clip, you’ve seen the camera–shortly after the DPW functionary uses the term “illegal alien”–pan to Kathleen “Mack the Knife” MacKenzie running her chops with someone to her right. That someone, which the camera eventually focuses on, is Judy Montero, Councilwoman for District 9. Concilwoman Montero’s district does include, undeniably, a substantial population of illegal aliens.
(By the way, Kathleen “Mack the Knife” MacKenzie was such a stellar performer on council that, try as she might, she never garnered enough votes from her fellow councilpersons to be elected to the position of Council President. I will let that speak for itself.)
Getting to the point here, Ms. Montero’s response to the DPW functionary who used the term “illegal alien” was, “You didn’t just say that. You didn’t just say what you said did you?”
At that point, another DPW functionary (the one with the “terrible cold”) responds to Ms. Montero with a syrupy placation to Ms. Montero’s befuddlement that a public servant would utter that nasty, nasty phrase, “illegal alien,” in her presence. The second DPW functionary–assuming the all too common pandering demeanor that many public servants devolve into once seated before elected councilpersons–regrets the state’s use of the nasty, nasty term “illegal alien,” in the statute, and voices his hope that the language Denver uses to comply with the statue will be something more, um, pleasing to Ms. Montero and surely to Kathleeen “Mack the Knife” MacKenzie who can be seen in the clip shaking her head in agreement to Ms. Montero’s self-righteous outrage and accompanying suggestion that she “…would prefer that we would use a more dignified (title, reference–that last word is not clear)” rather than “illegal alien.”
Okay. First of all, the e-mail communication from DPW (above) to, presumably, Ms. Montero, “However, PW will not use the term [illegal alien] in any verbal references, such as in council meetings, PW committee meetings, etc. It will be our immediate policy to begin using the term unauthorized immigrants in all references excluding the actual contract language. If there is another term you would prefer, please let us know,” wreaks of an outrageous calculated patronization of the councilwoman. And, if she doesn’t understand this–and, I assume she doesn’t–then the ignominy of her incumbency is assured.
Secondly, should we be concerned about or, at least, aware of the enforced “newspeak” lexicon of public servants who–in Denver, at least–take great pains to metamorphose language into a kind of feel-good mantra that ablates the essential meaning of words for the sole purpose of patronizing and pandering to elected officials? Of course, we should. Should we be concerned about elected officials who snuggle comfortably in their high-backed chairs when assured that their self-righteous outrage with the precise use of language–in this case, the use of the term “illegal alien”–is assuaged by bureaucratic fiat to enforce as unacceptable the precise use of language; to apply the feel-good transmutation of meaningful, legally to-the-point words with more “…dignified…” words? Of course we should.
The lexicon is ever-changing. We know that. Sometimes for better. Sometimes for worse. But, in this case, have we not subjugated not only the individual rights of DPW employees (free speech and all that Bill of Rights nonsense), but also the essential worth of the meaning of words to a place where the emperor sits with no clothes; a place where reality is displaced by a blind obeisance to what the emperor (Ms. Montero, the Hick, Kathleen “Mack the Knife” MacKenzie, to name a few) wishes us to see, to speak, to believe?