In the process of copyediting a manuscript recently, I came across the website for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It used to be two separate agencies: the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and Customs. Now they’re one agency under the Department of Homeland Security.

Here’s what the About page says:
“Created in March 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The agency was created after 9/11, by combining the law enforcement arms of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the former U.S. Customs Service, to more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and to protect the United States against terrorist attacks. ICE does this by targeting illegal immigrants: the people, money and materials that support terrorism and other criminal activities. [emphasis mine] ICE is a key component of the DHS ‘layered defense’ approach to protecting the nation.”

Now this is a classic problem in copyediting. Did the writer of this page intend to equate all illegal immigrants with terrorists? The way it’s worded, that is the only possible conclusion.

Do you think it’s badly worded? Or does ICE think “illegal aliens = terrorists”?

As Golden Zen says, some things I just don’t control, like the writing on government websites.

But I can express moral outrage, can’t I? Maybe someone will notice. Last time I checked, most illegal immigrants or illegal aliens were looking for a job so they could send remittances to their family at home. When did trying to feed your family make you a “person who supports terrorism”?

Perhaps some of them are criminals and terrorists, but ICE shouldn’t paint them all with the same brush!

Leave A Comment

  1. Harmony September 24, 2008 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Unless people speak up nothing gets said Beth.
    I agree – how can illegal immigrants ALL be terrorists?
    That would be like saying ALL shoe salespeople have a foot fetish!
    PS…thanks for the LINK LOVE!

  2. saint facetious September 25, 2008 at 9:07 am - Reply

    I think it’s just badly worded. Perhaps that colon was meant to be a semicolon or an “and”?

  3. Beth September 25, 2008 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Saint Facetious, I will I could believe it was just bad wording, but this administration does so many weird things with websites. I don’t know.

  4. BernardL September 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    With the aversion our government has for enforcing the illegal immigration laws already on the books, I would have to say it was poorly written.

  5. Beth Partin September 25, 2008 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    Yeah, you’re probably right. Though they have been enforcing the laws in Colorado lately–there was a big raid north of here.

  6. steph September 25, 2008 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Either way — whether or not they meant illegal immigrants are all terrorists — it’s still poorly worded and punctuated. What follows after the colon doesn’t make sense in defining (indicated by the colon) illegal immigrants, since money and materials might be what the immigrants have but not what they are. The whole thing sentence doesn’t make sense.

  7. steph September 25, 2008 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Whoops, delete “thing.” 🙂

  8. Beth September 25, 2008 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    I kind of like “thing sentence.” I’ve written a few of those.