Illegal or Undocumented?

Monday, September 19, 2011

When writing articles on immigration what terms should the media use, illegal or undocumented? This is one question that is posed by every journalist when writing a story about the topic.

According to the AP Style book the term that is preferred is Illegal Immigrant, but it says not to use just the term illegal as a noun.

There are many groups like the Diversity Committee of The Society of Professional Journalism and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists are trying to get jour
nalists to use other terms like undocumented worker or undocumented. These groups consider the term illegal a slur and politically incorrect.

What terms do other countries media use? An article by New America Media gives a few examples of what other countries use. Most Spanish speaking countries and the Philippines term Undocumented instead of illegal. In Russia both terms are used. However in Vietnam and China they use the term illegal, although in China it is not as controversial.

How should the American media react to this? Is this as controversial as some groups make it out to be? Is the term Illegal politically incorrect and should we start using the term undocumented?

Photo by: Fibbonaci Blue


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