12 Nov 2011
This news is a couple of months old, but I just discovered it this week.
The SPJ, Society of Professional Journalists, recommended stopping usage of the term “illegal alien” and wants “re-evaluation” of the use of “illegal immigrant.” They would prefer using “undocumented immigrant.” They cite the following reasons for this recommendation:
1) Those phrases are increasingly used pejoratively (i.e., they belittle);
2) The US Constitution says everyone in the country (regardless of being a citizen or not) is innocent until proven guilty. It’s the court system’s job to determine if a law has been broken.
My quick thoughts: “immigrant” is defined as someone trying to live in a new country permanently. If that immigrant came without proper documentation, that's illegal (regardless of being caught, prosecuted, and convicted).
If an article is being written about an individual, throw “alleged” in there like is done for every crime-related story nowadays. But if the person in question has admitted to or been convicted of not having documentation, then I see no issue with use of the word illegal.
If an article is being written about a group of people generally who just moved to the US with no intention of leaving and who don’t have proper documentation, I think illegal immigrants/aliens is totally accurate.
I believe most usages in the media (entertainment news and actual journalism) are in reference to a group, so illegal immigrants is appropriate… although it would nice if people could be nice to each other and not use terms with rude intent. I do understand the frustration over lack of enforcement of our laws. Ideally we’d have a reworked immigration and enforcement system that made moot this entire issue.