On the day that the Associated Press (AP) announced that it was dropping the term “illegal immigrant,” The New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan said the paper is reconsidering its position on the term.
What heart-wrenching, mind twisting debate is there to be had at The New York Times about a term that is inaccurate and demeaning?
Sullivan writes, “My position on this has changed over the past several months. So many people find it offensive to refer to a person with an adjective like ‘illegal’ that I now favor the use of ‘undocumented’ or ‘unauthorized’ as alternatives.”
I’m glad that she has succumbed to reason.
Just a few months ago, Sullivan defended the use of “illegal immigrant” by saying, “it is clear and accurate; it gets the job done in two words that are easily understood.”
There are no illegal immigrants, only illegal actions
Perhaps easily understood by a person who is not one of the more than 11 million people who live in fear in the United States because of careless and inciting words like “illegal immigrant,” “illegal,” “illegal alien,” “wetback.”
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has historically asked the media to use the term “undocumented immigrants” or “undocumented worker.” To use any other term when describing this group is an attempt to discredit them, question their motives for being in this country and silence their voice from the controversial immigration debate.
Ms. Sullivan, human beings are not illegal. Actions are illegal.
You say, “The Times, for the past couple of months, has also been considering changes to its stylebook entry on this term and will probably announce them to staff members this week…”
You’re considering? You’ll probably announce… this week?
There is no room for hesitation or procrastination when it comes to doing the right thing.
NAHJ applauds the AP for the change in its Stylebook and urges other media organizations—beginning with The New York Times—to follow their example.