Letter: Allow uncensored debate
While I respect the American Society of News Editors acknowledging Glenwood Springs Post Independent editor Randy Essex’s editorials from a human-interest standpoint, I find it disturbing that its award also legitimizes censorship that Essex imposes on his readership when he banned usage of the terms “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” in letters to the editor.
These are both legal terms used for decades in decisions, such as when Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan wrote in Plyler v. Doe: “Illegal alien is not an opprobrious epithet: It describes one present in a country in violation of the immigration laws (hence ‘illegal’).”
Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are our most precious constitutional rights. Newspaper editors — more than most people — defend freedom of speech. Why would the American Society of News Editors award an editor for censoring free speech of his readership and fellow citizens?
Writing letters to the editor is a traditional form of participation within a democracy — one of few public outlets citizens have to voice concerns, hopes and frustrations. When editors ignore or censor them, those that end up in print fill an agenda and become “letters from the editor.”
Essex moved here in 2014. Welcome! We salute you getting to know all the people you serve here. We all know — and most of us are friends with — some “unauthorized” immigrants. Many of us understand the personal challenges of individual immigrants but also have growing concerns over the huge, unsustainable toll of massive unauthorized immigration on our job markets, housing markets, schools and environment.
There are many struggling locals whose families have been American for generations and whose homes, wages and livelihoods have been greatly challenged over the past decade of unenforced immigration policy. Their voices deserve to be heard.
Many people who talk about “sustainability” who defend the environment (like me) also seem to think it’s OK to let everyone into this country who wants to come. These are not simultaneously defensible positions. Unchecked immigration is an environmental disaster locally and nationally. Locally, we face additional strains on water resources, more traffic and pollution. People also can’t bemoan the lack of local affordable housing if they defend every unauthorized immigrant coming here.
Congratulations, Mr. Essex, on your writing. Many of us who have been here a long time are watching our mountain way of life disappear. You owe it to all of us to allow intelligent, uncensored debate over our future.
David E. Johnson
Editor’s note: The Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Aspen Times follow Associated Press style guidelines. The word “illegal” should only be used to refer to an action or a violation of the law, never a person, according to the style guidelines. “Illegal immigration” can be used, but not “illegal immigrant.”
“Acceptable variations include living in or entreating a country illegally or without legal permission. Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented,” the AP Stylebook states.
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