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For decades, the term “illegal immigrant” has been deemed as offensive, controversial, and flat out disrespectful, despite its usage by reputable news organizations nationwide. After years of protests from immigration -rights advocates claiming that the term is dehumanizing, the Associated Press announced earlier this this month that the NY Times will no longer be using the phrase in any of its publications. The Times did not given any official information on their stance regarding the term immediately after the AP news was released. Phil Corbett, standards editor for the NY Times, assured the Huffington Post that editors were discussing a solution to the matter.
“We’ve been discussing some possible revisions in our guidance on these terms for a couple of months,” said Corbett. “Coincidentally, we had been expecting to send a memo to staff soon, possibly this week.”
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Many prominent news organizations use the Times’ style guide, and have been quick to eliminate the term altogether. The Times has had a slightly firmer stance on the matter, trying to avoid sounding too “safe” and overusing euphemisms. As opposed to what the AP claims, the term has not been banned, although the guidelines and rules surrounding the usage of the phrase have been altered.
On Tuesday, the NY Times released an updated entry on their “tweaked” new style guide:
“Illegal immigrant may be used to describe someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization. But be aware that in the debate over immigration, some people view it as loaded or offensive. Without taking sides or resorting to euphemism, consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions: who crossed the border illegally; who overstayed a visa; who is not authorized to work in this country.
Unauthorized is also an acceptable description, though it has a bureaucratic tone. Undocumented is the term preferred by many immigrants and their advocates, but it has a flavor of euphemism and should be used with caution outside quotations. Illegal immigration, because it describes the issue rather than an individual, is less likely than illegal immigrant to be seen as troubling.
Take particular care in describing people whose immigration status is complex or subject to change – for example, young people brought to this country as children, many of whom are eligible for temporary reprieves from deportation under federal policies adopted in 2012.
Do not use illegal as a noun, and avoid the sinister-sounding alien.”
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In a recent statement, Corbett stated that the Times had heavy discussions about this matter for months prior to the AP’s official posting. The statement was made shortly following immigration -rights activists’ protests just outside of the NY Times headquarters. During the protest, Jill Abramson, executive editor, was handed a petition which had over 70,000 signatures demanding that the term be dropped from the style guide.
Like many current topics trending with immigration this month, the handling of this term has struck up much controversy. While it’s smiled upon to eliminate offensive or hateful speech regarding any minority, many consider this situation to be crossing the fine line into censorship, arguing that our media does that already. Either way, the NYT has made their stance and is, as of now, sticking to their decision.
Source: Huffingtonpost, “Will The New York Times Next Drop ‘Illegal Immigrant?’” Michael Calderone,
April 2, 2013
Source: Huffingtonpost, “NY Times Tweaks Entry On ‘Illegal Immigrant’” Rebecca Shapiro,
April 23, 2013
Source: Huffingtonpost, “NYT changes style slightly on ‘illegal immigrant’” Andrew Beaujon,
April 23, 2013