With the importance of immigration reform being showcased in the 2012 Presidential Election campaigns, there has been a backlash against certain terms used to describe undocumented individuals in the United States.
Jose Antonio Vargas, an immigration activist, is at the helm of the fight against the term “illegal immigrant,” calling out publications like The New York Times, The Associated Press and other media outlets at the recent Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet in San Francisco, California.
“The term dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe,” Vargas said. “Think of it this way, in what other context do we call someone illegal?”
Vargas received responses from some of the publications he targeted. Although they were sympathetic to the issue, they defended their use of the term as one that describes the group in question.
“In referring in general terms to the issue of people living in the United States without legal papers, we do think the phrases “illegal immigrants” and “illegal immigration” are accurate, factual and as neutral as we can manage under the circumstances,” Phil Corbett, associate managing editor for standards at the Times explained to Poynter.org’s Mallary Tenore. “Proposed alternatives like ‘undocumented’ seem really to be euphemisms – as though this were just a bureaucratic mix-up that can easily be remedied. We avoid those euphemisms just as we avoid phrases that tend to cast a more pejorative light on immigrants.”
Fox News Latino conducted a national poll in March, 2012, showing that 46 percent of respondents found the term “illegal immigrant” to be offensive. However, 35 percent believe the term is accurate, according to the source.
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