We can’t even agree on what to call them


Share
Posted Online: April 25, 2013, 4:36 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
Philadelphia Inquirer
The debate over immigration reform has raised a question that's almost as challenging: What should we call the approximately 11 million people who are in the United States illegally?

The term illegal immigrants has been used routinely and often considered neutral. News organizations have used it for years to describe people by their actions. But there is a case to be made that it dehumanizes a class of people by suggesting that they themselves are somehow against the law.

Many in the media are reconsidering the term now that the Associated Press has revised its guidance via its Stylebook, a bible of journalistic usage. At the urging of immigration activists, the AP recently declared that its writers will be discouraged from using the words "illegal immigrant" to describe a person. (Illegal immigration is still OK because it refers to the unlawful act.)

A similar argument has been made -- and more widely accepted -- for avoiding terms that define people by an illness or disability. For example, the AP discourages the term "schizophrenics," preferring "people with schizophrenia," which certainly seems reasonable.

While the AP deserves credit for tackling such a thorny issue, its guidance is somewhat disappointing in that it does not recommend a replacement term. Instead, it suggests that writers make every effort to fully describe a person's immigration status instead of relying on shorthand. But that raises questions about how a large group of people who are in the country illegally should be described.

The debate has spread to Congress, where Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., has introduced a resolution urging House members not to refer to "undocumented foreign nationals" as "illegal immigrants." While Rush and others prefer the term undocumented, the AP has discouraged its general use because many immigrants lack certain required documents but not others.

With a sweeping immigration reform bill in Congress, the Associated Press' decision is a timely reminder that this debate is about people who broke the law, not people who are against the law. Otherwise law-abiding immigrants who are here illegally want and deserve a chance to become citizens and contribute more to society. The only label they want is American.

















 



Local events heading








  Today is Wednesday, Aug. 20, the 232nd day of 2014. There are 133 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Quite a number of Negroes have lately been brought here by abolition offers returning from the army in violation of the laws of the state.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Miss Tillie Denkmann, of Rock Island, was making plans to accompany a Davenport family on a tour of Europe.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The German advance into Belgium was going apparently without serious check. The American ambassador at Berlin published a denial of the charge that Americans had been ill-treated in Germany.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Seventy-two members of Rock Island High School's 1939 graduating class are preparing to enter college — 34 of them at Augustana.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the oldest buildings in Milan, which for a number of years has housed the Milan Hotel, will be razed to make way for a modern, two-story office structure.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some are blaming it on the sudden influx of insects and the extreme humidity. Still others say the invasion was inspired by a recent movie. But whatever the reason, the Quad-Cities is swarming with bats.




(More History)