Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Language Matters: "Self Deportation"

Last night's GOP Debate at the University of South Florida - home of the Bulls(hit) - was refusing to live up to NBC's pre-fight teasers, but one memorable bit of language will survive the event.  I watched the whole thing, where the main early rounds revolved around Mitt and Newt sniping about each other's unfitness for the office of the Presidency. All of my nodding in agreement, "Yes, you're both right about your opponent's inability to hold any position of authority," started acting as a soporific, as it also did for the sideshow acts of Santorum and Paul who stood there trying to keep their eyes open as they waited for the stray question that might be thrown their way to uphold an appearance of evenhandedness.
The fact that the crowd was instructed not to clap or give rebel yells also contributed to the lullaby effect of last night's festivities (though they couldn't help but cheer when Mitt mentioned Fidel Castro's death, or when Newt doubled down by saying that Fidel would go to hell -- you can't stop Republicans from cheering death and holy retribution!), but I was roused from my stupor when the topic turned to immigration and Mitt Romney said, "The answer is self deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here...We’re not going to round them up.”
Though all the first-page Google results for "self deportation" are about Romney's undocumented immgrants' honor system announced last night, it seems he didn't make up this innovative concept.  The government under George W. Bush (the one man NEVER mentioned at a 2012 GOP event) proposed the same thing in 2008, as shown here in this Houston Chronicle article, "ICE offers details about self-deport program".  And what is the incentive for undocumented workers reporting themselves to ICE and sending themselves back to their home country? "Should they ever want to return to the country legally, the application process wouldn't be as lengthy because the government would know their specific departure date." Not an incentive that would lead to widespread self deportation.
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Beyond the policy arguments, there's something about the word that really caught my attention on more than a political level as soon as I heard it.  If this were an era of a thriving hallucinogenic subculture, I could see "self deporting" and "self deportation" as great evocative euphemisms for tripping. At least in that context the concept makes sense.

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