Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave a speech this week to Yale Law School students and noted that she uses the term “undocumented immigrant.” She added, “To call them illegal aliens seemed and does seem insulting to me.”
This wouldn’t be especially noteworthy, were it not for one prominent conservative pundit’s dissatisfaction with Sotomayor’s comments. Ellie Sandmeyer highlighted Laura Ingraham’s remarks on her radio show:
Ingraham suggested that using the term “undocumented immigrant” demonstrated a failure of Sotomayor’s duty “to defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America.” According to Ingraham, the word choice shows that Sotomayor’s “allegiance obviously goes to her immigrant family background and not to the U.S. Constitution.”
Ingraham went on to argue, “Her duty is to defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America – and that’s what she says?”
The conservative host added, “Whatever illegal aliens want, illegal aliens get.” (After listening to the audio clip a couple of times, I’m still not sure what this means.)
And just in case that wasn’t quite enough, Ingraham added as part of the same segment, in apparent reference to an undocumented immigrant becoming an attorney in California , “So we have no rule of law. We are going to pick and choose who has to follow the law in the United States. So why is Dinesh D’Souza, then, being targeted? Why is he being targeted? Why does that law apply?”
There’s no real reason to respond to all of this, point by point, but the part of Ingraham’s criticisms that struck me as interesting was the assertion that it’s “obvious” that Sotomayor’s “allegiance” goes to “her immigrant family background and not to the U.S. Constitution.”
As a rule, when conservatives start questioning Americans’ “allegiances,” it’s worth pausing and taking a deep breath.
Just as important, let’s note that Sotomayor’s “immigrant family background” is Puerto Rican – or more specifically, Puerto Rican American, since Puerto Ricans have had U.S. citizenship for nearly a century.