‘Illegal Alien’ the preferred phrase for Supreme Court Justices in US v Arizona oral argument


August 27, 2012

The May 26 oral arguments for the Arizona SB 1070 case before the U.S. Supreme Court were notable for theuse of the correct immigration law terminology for aliens unlawfully present in the United States.

Justice Alito and Roberts both used the term “illegal alien” once. Justice Sotomayor used the same “illegal alien” term eight times in questioning Solicitor General Verrilli. Justice Scalia used the term “illegal immigrant” once.

The U.S. Solicitor General, arguing on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, exclusively used the term “unlawfully present alien” eleven times, and “unlawfully present person” once.

Although Senate President Harry Reid has urged the use of the term “undocumented Americans,” and various professional journalist organizations and law professors have promoted the politically correct but legally misleading term “undocumented alien,” those terms were avoided by all the Justices and the Solicitor General, as well as the State of Arizona’s attorney, Paul Clement.

IRLI considers the terms “illegal alien” and “unlawfully present alien” to be the two correct and codeterminous phrases under U.S. immigration law.

Get Connected

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date with immigration reform in the United States.

Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA) is a non-partisan affiliation of talented attorneys dedicated to pursuing cases that serve the national interest when it comes to immigration law.

If you are interested in joining the network, visit the AUSA website.