Illegal-Alien Reporter Launches Crusade to Ban 'Illegal' from Immigration News Stories

Ted Hesson at ABCNews.com reports that formerly "objective" Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas is leading a crusade to ban the term "illegal immigrant" from polite news coverage. Or as Hesson puts it, Vargas will "begin monitoring the use" of the phrase "with the goal of shifting the conversation."

"The term dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe," Vargas said. "Think of it this way, in what other context do we call someone illegal?" Since announcing to the world that he's an illegal immigrant, Vargas has become a celebrity activist who's starred in cover stories in in The New York Times Magazine and Time. He wants reporters to use the word "undocumented," and many do.

What's clear is that Vargas wants to remove any negativity from the descriptions. If a reporter decided to call him an "improper immigrant," it would still be worse than "undocumented." He said a child driver would not be called an "illegal driver." He doesn't note that America doesn't have 12 million children driving cars.

It's a bit like if coal-burning companies opposed the idea of being ever described in news reports as "polluters," when they should be described as "emitters." It's not more neutral. It's politicized soft-pedaling.

"Right now, my two main targets, and I say that politely, are going to be The New York Times and the Associated Press," Vargas told reporters after his keynote address at the 2012 Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet in San Francisco.

Both liberal outlets are persuadable, which is why they're being targeted. Hesson quoted New York Times reporter Julia Preston. "I have a growing number of readers who have a negative reaction, who feel offended by the term 'illegal immigration,' so I just try and be careful and accurate and thoughtful whenever I write a story, so I can find the language that will allow me to tell the story without jarring people."

In 2011, the Associated Press changed its style guide so that "illegal immigrant" would not be its preferred descriptor, but the term is still in frequent use; meanwhile, "undocumented immigrant" is not permitted.

Paul Colford, the director of media relations for the AP, told Hesson: "We do not insist that the term be stamped on everyone who's here illegally. In fact, as in the case of a person who was brought here as a child without permission, the term can be misleading, since the person wasn't a willing 'immigrant' at all. In such a case, we might simply state the situation: He doesn't have legal permission to live in the United States, since his parents entered the country illegally (or without authorization)."

Hesson added:

The editorial policy here at ABC/Univision is to use "undocumented" when referring to people in the country without authorization. Of our parent newsrooms, Univision uses the Spanish word for undocumented, "indocumentado," while ABC News typically uses "undocumented immigrant" but hasn't strictly adhered to that in the past.

"Our goal and policy is to use the term undocumented immigrant or worker, but there have certainly been instances where we have fallen short of that standard," said Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News.

This is how our liberal media defines "falling short." Sometimes, we use accurate terms that upset left-wing activists who prefer euphemisms.

[HT: Dan Gainor]

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis