Before the September 16 Republican Debate on CNN, Define American petitioned the media company to stop using the dehumanizing word “illegal” when speaking about undocumented immigrants. After just four days on the Interwebs, CNN responded by saying that its editorial team would stop using the offensive term. “The word ‘illegal’ should never be used as a standalone noun to refer to individuals with documented or undocumented immigration status,” said Geraldine Morida, Vice President of Diversity for CNN told National Association of Hispanic Journalists. It’s a step in the right direction, but we don’t think it will extend to the upcoming debate. And that’s a shame, because we don’t really feel like being insulted during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Define American now has its eyes set on the New York Times, which also uses the word. “A recent search of articles published by the paper found the term ‘illegal immigrant’ was used 190 times in three months and 600 in the past year,” according to the Change.org petition. According to the NYT’s publicly stated editorial policies, they “allow the phrase to be used for ‘someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization.’” But it “encourages reporters and editors to ‘consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions.’”
Define American has asked people to use #WordsMatter to raise attention to the issue on social media, and some people have already started doing so: