There is mounting petition from activist groups such as “Drop the I-Word” to stop using the term “illegal immigrant”. They believe this type of terminology is confusing the immigration debate in the United States.
However, groups such as the Associated Press and the New York Times continue to use this phrase when describing those who are living and working in the United States without a visa. Those fighting the immigrant cause are questioning why these people are not referred to as “undocumented immigrants.”
Currently there are an estimated 50,000 Irish living in the United States without a visa, according to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. But what should they be referred to as? Many of them are not “undocumented,” as they have Irish passports and birth certificates, so what should we call them?
The Associated Press recently released a statement explaining their reasons for the continued use of the phrase “illegal immigrant”. Deputy managing editor for standards and production, Tom Kent, said they would continue to use the phrase because sometimes it was the most accurate phrasing.
He added that the AP does not agree with referring to those without visas as “illegal aliens” or “illegals”. He added that calling people illegal “simply means that a person is…in violation of the law”.
Earlier this month, The New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that not using the phrase “illegal immigrants” would be a disservice to the readers.
She wrote, "It is clear and accurate. It gets its job done in two words that are easily understood. The same cannot be said of the most frequently suggested alternatives."
Gawker too agrees with Sullivan’s views. They say that “while terms like "illegal alien" are undoubtedly archaic and insensitive, "illegal immigrant" is nothing more than a statement of fact in a country currently doing a horrible job of putting together competent immigration policy.”
Those fighting against the use of the term say that describing people as “illegal” is a “racially charged” tactic.
Speaking to Gawker, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, himself an illegal immigrant, said he would prefer the use of terms such as “undocumented immigrant” or “unauthorized immigrant”.
The “Drop the I-Word” campaign states that they are “to eradicate the dehumanizing slur "illegals" from everyday use and public discourse. The i-word opens the door to racial profiling and violence and prevents truthful, respectful debate on immigration. No human being is "illegal."”
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