Public News Service: Media Debate – More Newsrooms Avoid “Illegal Immigrants”

Published October 17, 2012
Peter Malof, Public News Service – TX
San Antonio, TX

Adjective or adverb? More and more newsrooms are debating how best to use the word “illegal” when referring to residents who did not move to the United States with proper documentation.

From CNN to The Huffington Post, major outlets that have been trying to expand their Latino audiences are avoiding the term “illegal immigrant.” The San Antonio Express-News, whose reach extends into Mexico, decided two years ago that the term was not consistent with how the paper described others suspected of breaking laws. Managing editor Jamie Stockwell says it’s like calling someone accused of violating traffic laws an “illegal driver.”

“So, the correct way to describe a person’s immigration status – when that information is relevant – is to say that a person is in the country illegally. And then we cite the source of our information; for example, ‘Police said the man is in the United States illegally.’ “

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