Journalist Society Says Adios to the Term “Illegal Aliens”

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George Carlin once observed, “by and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.” He may be giving us that wry head cock and raised eyebrow right now after the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) has decided to recommend that newsrooms refrain from using the terms “illegal immigrant” and illegal alien.” The SPJ was concerned that “only courts can decide when a person has committed an illegal act.” More likely, the SPJ has buckled to fierce political pressure from illegal alien special interest groups.

Ensuring that judgment does not bleed into news reporting is a worthy goal for all free press, but shaping words to fit politically correct molds is simply another form of bias. Substituting the term “illegal alien” with “undocumented immigrant” or “worker” in order to placate powerful lobbies interjects opinion itself and surrenders the language to drive an agenda.

Journalistic guidelines dictate that disclosing a subject’s personal information – including immigration status – is not always integral to the story. But when it is, readers deserve clarity, not obfuscation.

The SPJ recommends using “undocumented workers.” The problem with that term is that with a few keystrokes, the illegality – the breaking of the law – is magically erased. “Illegal” disappears and with it, so too does regard for the rule of law. The SPJ claims that using the term “illegal”” presumes guilt but they seem just fine ignoring guilt when reporting even on broad classes of aliens who brazenly self-identify as residing in the U.S. illegally. Can’t have it both ways folks. The addition of the word “undocumented” suggests that those who have violated U.S. immigration laws are simply inconvenienced by not having the proper papers. But many illegal aliens do have documentation – it just doesn’t happen to rightfully belong to them. Finally, the term “workers” implies that all are gainfully employed, which many are not. But for the record, the seven million illegal aliens who do work are employed illegally and occupying jobs that rightfully belong to Americans.

The alternative use of “undocumented immigrants” is just as empty. These aren’t immigrants and this isn’t immigration. America is suffering from a policy of chaos and a flood of 12 million lawbreakers. Swapping the term “alien” for “immigrant” when referring to those who have broken the law is offensive to many legal immigrants. The distinction between legal and illegal is important. Coming to the Unites States the right way is a badge of honor for most immigrants.

There is no getting around it. The term “illegal alien” is the most legally precise, descriptive term in the lexicon. It delineates between one of only two possible categories; one either has legal status to be on U.S. soil or one is residing here illegally. “Illegal” means prohibited by law. Yes, entry without inspection into the U.S. is prohibited. And “alien” is a term that refers to a person who is not a citizen of the country. The term is well defined in 8 U.S.C. Section 1101. It is used by legal professionals across the board including the United States Supreme Court. It’s ok to say “illegal alien.”

Use it, but use it correctly. Don’t say someone is an illegal alien without the facts. That’s unacceptable and you’ll wind up in court. If based on due diligence, you have reason to believe the subject of a story is an illegal alien because credible sources have indicated he/she may be, use “alleged” illegal alien. But when the facts prove it and the circumstances are obvious, don’t be coy. For example, when referring to five hundred people at a rally holding “Illegal and Proud of It” signs, your readers will appreciate you reporting it accurately as a crowd largely composed of illegal aliens. Don’t water down stories about amnesty legislation for illegal aliens with references to “undocumented workers.” Why? Because amnesty legislation isn’t about giving needed documents, it’s about changing the law to erase the laws that were broken.

Why go through the fuss of changing the term “illegal alien” anyways? Altered to even the most preposterous euphemism we all know what it means – a person is here when he/she is not supposed to be. Leave well enough alone and avoid the hollow substitutes because ultimately, it takes more effort to conceal the truth than to reveal it.

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

27 Comments

  1. avatar

    We can argue semantics later, what’s most important is that we get the House to pass H.R. 2885 Lamar Smith’s E-Verify legislation!

    I trust that all posting here are aware that House Republican Leaders are stalling Lamar Smith’s prudent, effective E-Verify Legislation H.R. 2885? Ostensibly all of us should be writing, e-mailing, phoning and faxing our House members to inform them that we expect them to do the right thing and pass national mandatory E-Verify legislation before year end. Indeed, this one piece of legislation might make the draconian cuts that will ensue as a result of the “super Committee’s” inevitable grid lock easier to endure as the overall costs associated with supporting an unsustainable population of illegal aliens is diminished as a result of H.R. 2885.

  2. avatar

    This is garbage, stop the “political correctness” trash and get back to reality. The reality is Illegal Immigrant – that’s the way it is until they follow the laws already in place. Those laws worked for years and will work now if the government softies would get off their duffs and allow them to be enforced. This piece of garbage was a waste of your time and mine.

  3. avatar

    I good journalist would never allow anyone to tell them what words/terms they can or can’t/should or shouldn’t use in their writing. Political correctness is destroying our nation and this American of Mexican descent will call these illegal alien invading mobs anything I feel like calling them.

  4. avatar

    The Internal Revenue Code and the Code of Federal Regulations identify individuals in the country without documents as “Illegal Aliens”. If the shoe fits, it needs to be worn!

  5. avatar

    What a crock of BS…If anyone is in this country illegally…then they are ILLEGAL. If they’ve immigrated here illegally, then they are an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT. Case closed you horses behind. What part of illegal don’t you idiots understand???????

    • avatar

      Obama gave La Raza (The Race) $11 million this year. That’s $11 million of our money. They have been receiving tax dollars around that same amount for several years now. Call Congress (202-224-3121) and tell them to stop giving any money to them. Let’s ACORN them.

  6. avatar

    while you were waiting for SOME ONE ELSE to defend your country from the LA RAZA invasion, here’s what was happening to your job:

    PLEASE SEND THIS NEWS LETTER ON THE HISTORY OF THE LA RAZA INVASION AND OCCUPATION TO YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

    *
    http://mexicanoccupation.blogspot.com/2011/10/joke-on-america-hiring-illegals-rise-of.html

    *

    Joke on America: Hiring Illegals

    The Monitor’s View
    Ha ha ha. That’s a good one. Wal-Mart, a company with $285 billion in sales, gets fined a mere $11 million earlier this month for having hundreds of illegal immigrants clean its stores.

    *
    “What’s needed to discourage illegal immigration into the United States has been known for years: Enforce existing law.” CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

    *

    OBAMA’S PROMISE TO HIS LA RAZA PARTY BASE – EITHER AMNESTY AND LA RAZA SUPREMACY, OR LA RAZA SUPREMACY AND NON-ENFORCEMENT.
    *

  7. avatar

    The presumed image of “journalist integrity’ is as much an oxymoron as is “Humanitarian ethics of the KKK”. The reality is that the vast majority of self proclaimed ‘journalists’ are unethical, dishonest, untrustworthy, frauds and liars. There is a reason that the so called major networks are going broke, besides their absurd salaries paid to their “talking heads”. People are not watching anymore because they do not believe a word that is being said, even the truthful words, which are indeed, rare. Napolitano tried this same approach as did most of the electronic media and print media, yet it is still the accurate term that the “people” use to describe people who break the law to get in the US to break even more laws. Between Napolitano and “journalists’ their is absolutely no credibility, that is, no one trusts a word they say.

  8. avatar

    And a thief should be called an unauthorized borrower. We wouldn’t want any one stigmatized. A rose is still a rose. And undocumented is illegal

  9. avatar

    Well, as I wrote to Cong. Becerra who was taking this nonsense even further by using the term: “persons without documents/papers” (!) if you read the laws on this subject (maybe he doesn’t) the legally correct term is “illegal non-immigrant.” An immigrant is in legal terminology someone who immigrates to our country LEGALLY. Hello!!

  10. avatar

    Perhaps its time to license journalists as we license Medical, Legal, Teaching professionals , we license Commercial pilots, drivers, and police officers to name a few occupations all of which face revocation if they break the law, or violate the rule of said professions. We live with the right of free speech, and I don’t suggest that we remove that right from them only that their so called society does not try, and pressure news outlets that this is the only way that these criminals are identified as in the press, or radio,tv, internet news groups. Illegal aliens, criminal invaders, illegal immigrants are what they are, and no amount liberal leftist subversion is going to change the laws, or who, or what these people are.

  11. avatar
    Ron Yeary - IFIRE on

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    It’s a legal definition people….

  12. avatar

    THE REASON WHY OBAMA NOMINATED SONIA SOTOMAYER TO THE HIGH COURT WAS BECAUSE SHE HAD A LONG HISTORY OF PANDERING TO THE CORPORATE INTERESTS, AS HAS WALL ST-OWNED OBAMA, AND SHE IS A MEMBER OF THE MEXICAN FASCIST PARTY of LA RAZA. THIS “WISE LATINA”.

    SOTOMAYER VOTED NO FOR E-VERIFY, AND REFERS TO ILLEGALS AS “UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS”. OBAMA CALLS THEM HIS “UNREGISTERED LA RAZA PARTY BASE”

    NO PRESIDENT IN HISTORY HAS SABOTAGED OUR BORDERS ON BEHALF OF A FOREIGN INTEREST MORE THAN OBAMA!

    KEEPING WAGES DEPRESSED WITH AN EVER STEADY FLOW OF STAGGERINGLY EXPENSIVE “CHEAP” LABOR ILLEGALS FROM NARCOmex KEEPS WAGES DEPRESSED WHICH DELIGHTS OBAMA’S WALL ST PAYMASTERS!

    VIVA LA RAZA LOOTING? OBAMA DOES RIGHT OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE!

  13. avatar

    I agree with Rand! Whenever we can we should call them out as not being reporters but instead propagandists in twitter, facebook, etc.

  14. avatar

    You would think that people who work with words would understand they have meaning and when you change the words you change the meaning but that is exactly what they are trying to do, change the meaning and perception of what is ‘illegal’ proving what Rand says above, reporters claim fiction as fact, that is propaganda.
    My pet peeve is reporters constantly misidentifying Democrats as ‘democratic’, their own actions such as fleeing a state so they don’t have to vote when they know they are going to loose, obummercare being passed against the will of the people is proof they are not ‘democratic’ they are despotic! The media constantly misidentifying them as democratic is an attempt to convince people that only demon-crats are democratic while no one even knows what a ‘Republican’ or a ‘Republic’ is, and what the heck is the GOP party? What is a gopper? You may know it stands for ‘Grand Old Party’ which is another identification for the Republican party, but how many poorly educated high school grads out there have any idea? Those are the functional minions the demon-crats use to accomplish their goal of destroying EQUALITY and EQUAL Protection under the law, too poorly educated to question what the gubbermint tells them and too dependent on gubermint to chance voting against them.
    Reporters inject bias in nearly every report they make, altering the facts to suit their agenda, without truth in reporting no one can expect intelligent decisions from those intentionally misinformed, therein lies the true danger, without truth there can be no balanced intelligent response to any problem. Demand truth from the media! Demand Truth and EQUAL Enforcement of our laws on illegal aliens and Citizens alike, if Citizens must obey the laws, aliens should too, otherwise we are no longer EQUAL!

  15. avatar

    I have a little piece of news for the ILLEGAL ALIEN advocacy groups. Changing the language is not going to make the chaotic situation any more palatable to Americans. “We The People” gave amnesty to millions of ILLEGAL ALIENS back in 1986 with the promise of future enforcement. We got burned bad. The only thing accomplished by this massive legalization was to throw out the welcome mat for millions more ILLEGAL ALIENS. Now, they want to add a neon sign to draw yet more ILLEGAL ALIENS into our country. The citizens of this nation have said enough. We want actual enforcement before there is even a discussion of how to handle those whose first act when entering this country was to break our laws. National E-Verify will take away job potential thereby decreasing the overall ILLEGAL entry of foreign nationals. This will make it much easier for the Border Patrol to spot and apprehend the real bad guys, i.e. drug smugglers. Every poll shows that over 70% of the citizens in this country want our laws enforced but the federal government refuses to do so. The question is, what is the motive of those who have been elected to and sworn to uphold our nations laws to not do their job.

    • avatar

      DrSique I agree with you 100%, Well said.

      I’m unhappy with both parties not enforcing our laws and pandering to the illegal supporters. We need new blood elected. Here in California, good old Jerry Brown is giving away our state to the illegals and the children they brought here from Mexico.

      It’s our country, so why are we spending billions supporting illegals?

  16. avatar
    Chris Chrisman on

    By that journalistic standard, a person who rapes a child hasn’t done anything illegal unless he is convicted in court. So if a society chooses to ignore rape, it is not a crime. Ask the young child if it was a crime.

    “Undocumented immigrants” didn’t just happen. They are undocumented because they illegally evaded our border controls and are trying to live here without proper visas and residence permits. Because nobody prosecuted them for that doesn’t mean they are innocent.

  17. avatar

    This has to be the most stupid thing I ever read. “Undocumented”, “illegal” — what difference does it make? “A rose is a rose is a rose…”

    • avatar

      of course that means that “journalists” refrain from calling Conservatives “right wingers” before a court has decided that they are “right/extreme”, right? No more “greedy” bankers until it is “proven” that they are greedy….

    • avatar

      They can say whatever they want — I have bumper stickers on my car that use the term “ILLEGAL ALIENS,” and I used that term whenever I am discussing illegal immigration. It is my right as an American citizen to do so, and I will continue.

      • avatar

        I could not agree more! ‘Undocumented immigrants’ infers that they are missing
        a couple of piece of paper and that nothing ILLEGAL is going on. They are pushing toward the North American Union fast and furiously…

  18. avatar

    If the SPJ doesn’t mind, I’ll keep using the perfectly correct name, unless they’d like me to say, “&*%# or *#%$ or
    *%&$#.”