Journalists have been incredible allies in our campaign to get their colleagues in dropping the I-Word. Allies liked Raul A. Reyes, whose employer USA Today recently dropped the slur, said at the Huffington Post last week:
On Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) announced a major change in the way it describes people with an unlawful presence in the U.S. Their Stylebook, used by journalists nationwide, no longer sanctions the terms "illegal" and "illegal immigrant" to refer to the undocumented. While Latino and immigrant advocacy groups hailed the AP's decision, many conservatives accused the organization of bowing to political correctness.
But this is not a question of mere political correctness. This is a question of accuracy, fairness, and respect. The Associated Press should be applauded for dropping the "I-word" because it is offensive to immigrants, Hispanics, and American values. "Illegal" is a loaded term that for too long has polluted the immigration debate.
Although most of the undocumented are economic migrants, their ranks also include asylum seekers, refugees, and victims of traffickers. It is hurtful and needlessly punitive to tag them all with a negative label like "illegal" simply because they lack papers.
National Association of Hispanic Journalist president and ESPN senior producer Hugo Balto said this on 4/19/13:
Human beings are legal. Actions are illegal. Despite this clear distinction, the term "illegal immigrant" is frequently used in the ongoing debate on immigration reform. The time has come, however, to retire this offensive term as we advance as a society.
Not only is it grammatically incorrect, it is also dehumanizing. The "I-word", as many Latinos call it, has a direct impact on the lives of the 11 million people it refers to -- those living in the United States who do not have the proper documentation.
It attempts to discredit this group of people and question their motives for being in this country, as well as instill fear in order to silence their voices.
The I-word intentionally creates an image of criminals lurking in the shadows of our communities, which undermines the fact that most immigrants who do not have documentation are hardworking mothers, fathers, sons and daughters whose only crime is trying to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.
Many thanks to Hugo and Raul for helping us get that much closer to getting the media to drop the I-Word!