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Journalist Group Complains 'Illegal Immigrant' Term is 'Offensive' to Latinos


"Minimize harm."

UCLA student Jose Ortiz, 20, reacts as the Dream Act fails to move forward in the Senate during televised coverage of proceedings at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center in Los Angeles, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. Immigrant advocates viewed the measure as a step toward providing a path to legal status for up to 12 million illegal immigrants by focusing on the most sympathetic among them first. Critics called it a back-door grant of amnesty that would encourage more illegal immigration. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

The Diversity Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is calling on news reporters nationwide to drop the term "illegal immigrant" from their news coverage in an effort to "inform and sensitize" people on how "offensive" the phrase is to Latinos.

In the latest issue of the SPJ's magazine, Quill, Diversity Committee member Leo Laurence announced the organization's new campaign against "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien," claiming that individuals living in America without approval should be called "undocumented workers" or "undocumented immigrants."

"[T]his is not about being politically correct," SPJ Diversity Committee chairman George Daniels says, but about aiming to "minimize harm" when reporting.

But the journalists' new campaign doesn't stop at just changing popular lexicon.  Instead, Laurence offers up an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that provides constitutional rights for everyone -- including non-citizen -- and claims that the only way to "remain faithful" to the Constitution is to dump the phrase:

SPJ’s Diversity Committee met during the 2010 convention in Las Vegas and decided to engage in a yearlong educational campaign designed to inform and sensitize journalists as to the best language to use when writing and reporting on undocumented immigrants.

Some believe the phrase illegal alien originated with fiery, anti-immigrant groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as the Minutemen. Gradually, the phrase — along with illegal immi-grant — seeped into common usage. It is now even used by some network TV newscasters.

Yet it remains offensive to many Latinos, and especially Mexicans, and to the fundamentals of Ameri-can jurisprudence. ...

The AP Stylebook unfortunately says that "illegal immigrant" is preferred over "undocumented worker."

"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is concerned with the increasing use of pe-jorative terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States," NAHJ says.

It is calling for a national discussion and re-evaluation of the use of the phrase illegal immigrant. "The term criminalizes a person," the organization of Latino journalists contends. ...

Simply put, only a judge, not a journalist, can say that someone is an illegal.

Conservative columnist and author Michelle Malkin thinks the campaign demonstrates how SPJ is not an objective news source.  “I think that they should drop the pretense that they are an objective news organization, especially because the euphemism that they favor is far more politically loaded than the one that they’re trying to replace,” Malkin told the Daily Caller. “It’s a farce to call someone an ‘undocumented worker’ who is full of fake, fraudulent documents and that is usually the case with many of the suspected illegal immigrants that these stories refer to.”

And despite SPJ's new campaign, the Associated Press is standing by its established guidelines surrounding "illegal immigrants":

“The AP Stylebook created its entry on ‘illegal immigrant’ in 2004, in response to renewed debate over border security and the enforcement of immigration laws after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,” AP’s deputy standards editor David Minthorn explained in an e-mail. “Together, the terms describe a person who resides in a country unlawfully by residency or citizenship requirements. Alternatives like undocumented worker, illegal alien or illegals lack precision or may have negative connotations. Illegal immigrant, on the other hand, is accurate and neutral for news stories.”

But Laurence says the AP is "wrong" and that their standards for journalists are "not consistent with the Constitution.”  In response, Laurence warns that if his organization adopts the new language recommendations at their next convention, it will be pressuring the AP to do the same.

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