What do you all think of the phrase “unauthorised immigrants”, which is used throughout the Pew report? It is less harsh than “illegal immigrants”, but seems to have the same logical problem, that the actions are illegal/unauthorised, not the people themselves. “Undocumented immigrants” might be better.
I think the term “undocumented” frankly is absurd; it sounds like a bureaucratic mix-up (“oh dear, I lost the title to my car, it’s now undocumented”) rather than the truth, which is that in a vast majority of cases—the unfortunate cases of those with jus soli or jus sanguinis without the proper paperwork aside—the “undocumented” have no legal permission or right to be in the United States, and often have forged (i.e. illegal) paperwork claiming otherwise, hence hardly making them “undocumented” but rather more properly maldocumented, the legal equivalent of a teen with fake ID who certainly isn’t an “undocumented adult.”
All that said, “unauthorized” (or for our Oxford-nonbelieving British cousins “unauthorised”) seems to be a reasonable compromise to me.
(And, for infrequent readers of this blog, I say all of the above as someone who generally advocates an end to immigration restrictions and the national drinking age.)