Journalists Decide Against the Words “Illegal Immigrant”

Journalists Decide Against the Words “Illegal Immigrant”

The Society of Professional Journalists (“SPJ”) decided recently to urge the profession to cease using the phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” in favor of the term “undocumented.”  At the New Orleans convention where 7,800-member SPJ passed its resolution on a voice vote, SPJ member (and member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists), Rebecca Aguilar argued that the term insulted Latino immigrants who had been undocumented at some point.

SPJ President-Elect Sonny Albarado, projects editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, said that he hopes that the resolution makes a statement about being sensitive to language.  “I hope it shows people that journalists are concerned about being accurate when they refer to people, plus I hope it helps shape the discussion.” Albarado said.

The resolution urges journalists to drop the phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” in part because under the Constitution, which also applies to non-citizens, the accused is presumed innocent and only a court can determine when a person has violated the law.  The resolution also noted that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the pejorative use of these terms to describe an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.