The Paper of Record has an interesting article about current terminology related to illegal migrants. Generally speaking, I have always figured “illegal immigrants” is the most useful because everyone who hears it knows what you are talking about, and in the communications field that is one of the things you are shooting for. But technically, illegal migrants is what they really are, because the term refers to people who have eschewed the immigration process – which is a legal process – and taken it upon themselves to migrate to the U.S. illegally. The downside of this terminology is it causes unfamiliar listeners to do a double take – they have to think before recognizing what is being said.
And as the author notes, illegal “alien” is the proper term for the illegal migrants in the context of U.S. law.
But semantically we can quibble over categories such as “authorized” or “documented” in the “un-” tense. Also, it is surely not unreasonable in shorthand to refer to those in the U.S. illegally as “illegals.”
In the interest of clarification and social harmony, I propose we call it what it is from here on out, and simply refer to the interlopers as “trespassers.” They are not allowed to be here, and therefore they are trespassing.
That being settled, I assume we can move on.