L.A. Times Considering Changes in Use of ‘Illegal Immigrant’

The L.A. Times is in a unique place because Los Angeles is home to the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States. But also because they received a $1-million grant to cover immigration and other interests for people of color.

By Jorge Rivas Apr 05, 2013

The Los Angeles Times announced Thursday morning they are considering changes in policy regarding their use of the term ‘illegal immigrant.’ Their statement came three days after the Associated Press announced they would no longer recommend journalists identify undocumented immigrants using the i-word.

"The common usage of the i-word has become heavily racialized and targeted at people of color," Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Colorlines.com, told the L.A. Times. Sen was quoted in the L.A. Times’ story that revealed the paper was reviewing their use of the i-word.

Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times story that explains their use of the term "illegal immigrant" below: 

At the Los Angeles Times, "illegal alien" was the preferred usage from 1979 until the newspaper’s style guide changed in 1995, said Henry Fuhrmann, assistant managing editor in charge of copy desks.

Since then, writers have been directed to use "illegal immigrants" while avoiding "illegal aliens" and "illegals."

The Times’ Standards and Practices Committee has been considering the issue since last fall and will soon make a recommendation to top editors, Fuhrmann said. Some writers have already been avoiding "illegal immigrant," Fuhrmann said, just as "illegal alien" had fallen out of favor before the 1995 stylebook update.

"It is much easier to dehumanize and to silence somebody when you’re calling them an illegal," said Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, in 2010. His organization launched a campaign that year calling on journalists to reevaluate their use of the tern "illegal immigrant" because it dehumanizes people, they argued. 

That same year, Colorlines.com also launched the Drop the I-Word campaign to call on journalists and publications to stop using the i-word. 

The Los Angeles Times is in a unique place because the city of angels is home to the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States. But not only that, the paper also received a large grant last year to improve their coverage of people of color and the issues they care about.

The paper is owned by the Tribune Company and in 2012 they received a $1-million grant from the Ford Foundation to expand their "coverage of key beats, including immigration and ethnic communities in Southern California."

Seems like the L.A. Times should get with times, right?