NEW YORK, March 23, 2013 -- Major national organizations in support of the Applied Research Center's Drop the I-Word public education campaign together delivered more than 70K signatures to The New York Times today calling on the newspaper to stop describing people as "illegal." The signatures were collected by a collaborative effort through Drop the I-Word, Define American, Presente.org, and through a MoveOn.org petition started by Helen Chavez, the widow of Cesar Chavez. Today is the 20th anniversary of the civil rights icon's death.

The petitions were delivered by the Chavez family, Jose Antonio Vargas and Abraham Paulos, Executive director of Families for Freedom, a New York based multi-ethnic defense network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation.

Since the Drop the I-Word campaign launched in September of 2010, undocumented people, their allies and a diverse group of supporters including linguists, and the legal community have called on all media organizations to drop the legally inaccurate and dehumanizing term. And last fall, Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and founder of Define American, publically challenged the Associated Press and The New York Times to drop the term, a year and a half after coming out as undocumented in The Times.

"The use of dehumanizing, inaccurate language to describe immigrants is no longer acceptable, as indicated by style guide updates at the AP, USA Today, ABC, and many other news outlets," said ARC President Rinku Sen. "The New York Times needs to do the same and hold itself up to the journalistic standards for which it is known."

After months of consideration, Public Editor Margaret Sullivan now favors the use of "undocumented" or "unauthorized" as alternatives, but the news organization has yet to announce an official policy. Earlier this month, advocates secured two major victories when the Associated Press dropped the term, followed by USA TODAY. The Huffington Post, Univision News, ABC, CNN, NBC Latino, NBC News, Fox News Latino, The Nation and Colorlines.com are among leading national news outlets that don't use the term, and instead use "unauthorized" "undocumented" and varying more precise descriptions.

Last year a report commissioned by the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and conducted by Latino Decisions, found that non-Latinos no matter what the media format, think that Latinos and "illegal immigrants" are one and the same. Additionally the study revealed "over 30 percent of respondents believed a majority of Latinos (50 percent or greater) were undocumented.

Core supporters of the Applied Research Center's Drop the I-Word campaign are: Define American, GLAAD, Presente.org, Move-on.org, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Cuentame.org.

Additional supporters of Drop the I-Word are: Alliance for a Just Society; American Anthropological Association's The Committee for Human Rights; Anti-Defamation League; Black Alliance for Just Immigration; California Council of Churches; Campus Progress; CARECEN San Francisco; Center for Community Change; Center for Constitutional Rights; Coalition for Humane Rights of Los Angeles; Drum Major Institute; Equal Justice Society; General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church; Hip Hop Congress; Latinos for Community Transformation; National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities; National Day Laborer Organizing Network; National Immigration Law Center; National Korean American Service & Education Consortium; New York Immigration Coalition; New York State Youth Leadership Council; One America; South Asian American Leaders for Tomorrow; The Association for Community Development, Bangladesh; The Nation Institute; The Sound Strike; Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action; Voto Latino; UNITY comprised of: the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native American Journalists Association and most recently, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association; WARBE Development Foundation; Washington Community Action Network; and Women's Media Center.

About Drop the I-Word: Presented by the Applied Research Center, Drop the I-Word is a public education campaign powered by immigrants and diverse communities across the country that value human dignity and are working to eradicate the dehumanizing slur "illegals" and other forms of the term, from everyday use and public discourse. No human being is "illegal."

Media Contact:

  • MoveOn.org/Fernando Chavez: Brett Abrams: brett@fitzgibbonmedia.com, 516-841 1105
  • Applied Research Center/Rinku Sen: media@arc.org, 347-864-0519
  • Define American/Jose Antonio Vargas: monica@defineamerican.com
  • National Hispanic Media Council/Alex Nogales: igonzalez@nhmc.org
  • Presente/ Arturo Carmona: blair@fitzgibbonmedia.com, 202-503-6141