Our VoiceImmigration

Journalist must stop using the term “illegal immigrants”

Guest Blogger • Feb 17, 2011

By Sandy Merilan

Journalists must stop criminalizing immigrants with sloppy language. The usage of terms like “illegal” creates an environment of hate where acts of violence become legitimized.

We are all immigrants, but most importantly we are all human.

To call someone “illegal” is to negate that person’s humanity. No human being is “an illegal.”

Journalists, who prize themselves on objectivity and fairness, ought to shun this term. It is too loaded with bias.

And the use of the term itself has been promoted by groups that have a bias against Hispanics. According to the Applied Research Center, “The term has deliberately been made popular in the media by a web of people and organizations that both promote anti-immigrant sentiment and encourage fear and division instead of facts and understanding.”

While some journalist might claim that referring to undocumented immigrants as illegal is just a neutral term, it is not.

Continuing usage of the term “illegal” when referring to an undocumented migrant will perpetuate the idea that these people are unwanted and second class.

In the past, journalists used biased terms to refer to blacks, the Irish, Italians, and Japanese Americans, among others. But those hateful labels are no longer acceptable.

Similarly, today it should not be acceptable to use the term “illegal” to refer to a human being.

Journalists must update their sensibilities and uphold their standards of fairness.

Until journalists change how they discuss immigration, we will not be able to achieve a fair dialogue about immigration.

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