The battle over immigration reform is not just happening on Capitol Hill. It’s also being waged in newsrooms around the country, and reform advocates won a huge victory yesterday when the AP announced it was striking “Illegal Immigrant” and “Illegals” from its stylebook.
This is a critical win. If the vocabulary used in the immigration debate demeans human beings, it’s impossible to have a constructive and just dialogue.
Activists like Jose Antonio Vargas have long made this issue a priority, arguing that “illegal immigrant” is both dehumanizing and legally inaccurate. Immigrants in detention and deportation processes are not tried in criminal court.
For years, however, the AP has defended the term, and most other major news sources have followed suit, though notable media outlets like the Huffington Post and the Miami Herald long ago axed the term. With immigration reform finally on the table, and public opinion swinging away from xenophobia, the AP striking “illegal immigrants” represents a watershed moment in the immigration debate. No longer will the standard-bearer in journalism endorse a term that almost half of the country’s largest minority group finds offensive. We can finally move towards a national discussion around immigration that is not tainted in this way.
The fight is far from over, however. The New York Times, arguably the most influential newspaper in America, has still not changed its style guide. Visit Colorlines’ Drop the I-word Campaign webpage to find how you can make your voice heard and advocate for the end of this dehumanizing and inaccurate term.