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illegal immigrant

Meaning: a dysphemism for undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers

For example:

  • These illegal immigrants from Syria and Afghanistan will steal our jobs!

  • They're not illegal immigrants! They're refugees from war-torn countries who need our help.

Note: Also "illegal alien". For advanced learners: Often used to describe people who escape from war, persecution or poverty without being helped by a refugee agency or similar organization. The term "illegal immigrant" makes escaping from war, persecution or poverty independently sound like a crime, and most people and governments who use the term don't want to help these people.

Quick Quiz:

Calling refugees "illegal immigrants" makes them sound like

a. victims

b. seekers

c. criminals

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Contributor: Matt Errey