Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'd Rather Be Undocumented

Kristen Renard

In Undocumented or Illegal? A campaign to change the way some immigrants are described in news stories faces an uphill battle, Karen Carmichael and Rabiah Alicia Burks make key points about the campaign to change the terms used to describe immigrants who are in the United States illegally. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has been fighting to change the name of such immigrants from “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens” to “undocumented immigrants” for the past four years. While this campaign has been making strides in the media, some believe the new term is unnecessary, not to mention misleading. While I agree that ‘undocumented’ may not be the best term, I do believe that the terms “illegal immigrant” or illegal alien” should not be used in the media. Linguist Otto Santa Ana prefers the term “unauthorized immigrant” to the other three options, and I have to agree with him. “Undocumented” gives off the idea that the immigrant is simply without ‘papers’ while “unauthorized” makes it clear that they are hear illegally, without calling them “illegals.” The article states, “Journalists, hes adds, should try to find neutral ground.” This is a KEY part of being a journalist--being unbiased and impartial.

The campaign to change the use of the terms “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” to something less criminal has a far way to go, however. As a college educated Journalism student, I find it baffling that I have yet to hear of or see in print the use of a different term. I had no idea that the terms “undocumented immigrant” and “unauthorized immigrant” were even being used in exchange for ‘illegal,’ and I know that I cannot possibly be the only one. Even Wikipedia is behind on the news. When searching the term “illegal immigration,” you are taken to a page containing its definition. However, when you search the term “undocumented immigration,” it simply redirects you to the “illegal immigration” page. Because of this, those who are trying to use the more neutral term are being deterred.

I googled the term "illegal immigrant" and one of the first websites I saw was , an obnoxiously offensive website that bashes the use of more neutral terms than 'illegal' and 'alien.' It was hard to believe something like this exists, and it simply emphasizes the uphill battle of impartiality which we, as journalists, need to continue to fight.

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