SPJ Takes Up Crusade against Term 'Illegal Immigrant'
The Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ)'s Diversity Committee has announced that it will be launching a year-long campaign to educate journalists about the hurtfulness of phrases like “illegal immigrant,” which is the term currently preferred by the influential AP Stylebook.
The label “remains offensive to Latinos, and especially Mexicans, and to the fundamentals of American jurisprudence,” wrote Leo E. Laurence, a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee and the editor the San Diego News Service (which appears to be this blog that was last updated in August, 2009.
Seeing as most Latinos in the
Laurence argues that the terms “undocumented immigrant” or “undocumented worker” should replace “illegal immigrant,” because the
“One of the most basic of our constitutional rights is that everyone (including non-citizens) is innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law,” wrote Laurence, whose bio notes that he holds a law degree. “Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal.”
Obviously you don't need to go to law school to understand that basic concept. And it's certainly important to use words like “suspected” when writing about a specific individual whose immigration status has not yet been determined. But it has absolutely nothing to do with getting rid of the term “illegal immigrant” altogether.
Drunk drivers are also innocent until convicted in a court of law – and yet the Miami Herald headline “
There is simply no difference between those headlines and ones like, “
The SPJ diversity committee says “undocumented immigrant” is a more appropriate description. Yet living in the