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Call on the New York Times to drop the word “illegal”

This petition had 2,844 supporters


With immigration at the forefront of our cultural discourse, the words media choose matter more than ever.

That’s why Define American and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists are calling on the New York Times to modernize and improve the accuracy of its editorial guidelines by discontinuing the use of the word “illegal” when referring to undocumented Americans. 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.

Whether reporting on the issue or speaking about it in conversation, Define American and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists suggest the terms “undocumented immigrant,” or "undocumented American" be used instead.

The content of our speech leads to actions - the rising racist and xenophobic debate around immigration has been followed by attacks on immigrants in recent weeks, and the term “illegal” is also factually flawed. Being in the U.S. without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one.

Many other leading media outlets, including CNN, the Associated Press and ABC, have already adjusted their editorial guidelines to prohibit the use of “illegal” when referring to undocumented Americans.

As an influential media outlet, we call on the New York Times to do the same.



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