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January 20, 2021
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News + Views

Vote to End “Illegal Alien”

By Lisa M. Collins

The Society of Professional Journalists, a national organization whose ranks are filled by reporters and editors at TV and radio stations and at daily and weekly newspapers, with branches in every state and big city across the country, has voted to end the use of the terms “illegal alien,” and “illegal immigrant.”

Waves of U.S. ancestors, saying, "Don't call us aliens."

The move came after an impassioned plea by a Hispanic journalist, who talked about her mother’s shame and offense when hearing the terms.

Sing in the streets. It’s truly time these nasty phrases were put to bed. As the SPJ resolution states, it’s up to a court whether a person has done something illegal. And there are millions upon millions of “undocumented” individuals in the United States under so many circumstances and for so many reasons—teaching, learning, raising kids, working, making the nation’s restaurants hum, making pennies.

Calling humans “aliens” is just ridiculous, and hateful.

Let’s hope the journalism association’s move catches on.

Read the SPJ resolution:

“WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be ‘honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information’ and;

“WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ and the more offensive and bureaucratic ‘illegal alien’ to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

“WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

“WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as ‘innocent-until-proven-guilty,’ applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

“WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an illegal act and;

“WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

“THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories.”

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