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It has happened again. After the largest publication in the United States, USA TODAY, blundered in defaming undocumented youth as "illegal students" less than a month ago, the New York Times adopted the term in an editorial titled "Whither the DREAM," published on Jan 3, 2010.

These sentences barely make any sense:

NO federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from attending college in the United States, or requires them to disclose their situation. Most colleges don't even check immigration status when students apply for financial aid - only 31 percent, according to a survey last year by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Still, illegal students face numerous barriers to higher education.

Wait, if no federal law prohibits undocumented youth from accessing institutions of higher education, than how exactly are they illegal "students?" Has New York Times discovered some "illegal students" or "illegal persons?" We would love to know!

As unflattering as it is to call persons without documentation 'illegal,' the term illegal students makes no sense.

The editorial also falsely implied that 69% of undocumented students get financial aid because institutions of higher learning fail to do background checks, which is highly inaccurate, not to mention preposterous. 

Now is the time for us to be clear that undocumented students apply for admission, pay tuition, and study hard just like their American-born colleagues. The legality of their standing in colleges and universities should not be questioned.

Send the letter on below to tell New York Times to stop competing with our archaic immigration system and using inaccurate vitriol that does nothing to move the immigration debate forward.


Letter to
Exec Director - Media Relations Diane McNulty
Public Editor Clark Hoyt
I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the wording used in the article, "Whither the Dream" published online and in your newspaper on January 3, 2010. The use of the term "illegal student" is reprehensible and misleading as no student can attend an institution of higher learning illegally, regardless of citizenship status.

The problem is not only limited to semantics--the editorial piece also falsely implies that 69% of undocumented students can access federal financial aid, a baseless and untrue assumption.

I kindly ask that the New York Times cease use of the term "illegal student" when referring to undocumented students who are eligible for the DREAM Act, a legislative proposal that would create a path to legal status for young people who grew up in this country and worked hard in school. The immigration debate has been contentious and divisive for many years, often at the cost of these students' hopes and dreams. The loose terminology used in the editorial is hurtful and inaccurate.

I join others in demanding that the New York Times retract the term "illegal student" and refrain from ever using it again. We also ask that the newspaper strongly reconsiders its usage of the term "illegal" in general when referring to undocumented immigrants.

Thank you for your consideration.

Prerna Lal started this petition with a single signature, and now has 401 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.