A few years ago, in Toronto, I was talking a social service worker, and made the faux pas of using the word “immigrants.”
“We prefer the term ‘New Canadians,’” the social worker corrected me. “‘Immigrants’ makes them sound like people who don’t belong in our country.”
I chalked this up to the fact that Toronto is, probably, the most politically correct city in North America. Also to the fact that I’d just made fun of the neighborhood we were in, a collection of tidy housing projects occupied by Jamaicans and Grenadians, as not living up to American standards of slumminess.
“He’s from Chicago,” the social worker’s friend stage whispered. “They have gangsters.”
Now, though, I see that Rahm Emanuel is picking up the phrase. In his Chicago 2011 Transition Plan, he announces the formation of an Office of New Americans, which will “provide information to immigrants about schools, public safety, healthcare and all City and non-profit services…Chicago’s immigrant youth will be able to tap into funds that make their dreams of higher education a reality.”
Emanuel, who is himself the son of New Americans, is not the first Democratic politician to pick up this terminology. Last year, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said “we should not blame new Americans for the problems that our country is going through right now.” His administration also founded the Maryland Council for New Americans.
Conservatives, however, object to the term because it doesn’t just apply to new citizens, but to anyone who’s new to this country, including, they say, illegal immigrants.
Is “New Americans” the best way to describe immigrants, or is it extreme political correctness?
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