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UNITY Disappointed in The New York Times’ Decision to Continue Use of Term “illegal immigrant”

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McLEAN, Va. – UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, Inc. is deeply disappointed in the The New York Times’ decision to continue using the term “illegal immigrant.” Click here to view New York Times Article.

As the most diverse coalition of journalists from all backgrounds and nationalities, UNITY feels a special obligation to speak up for the immigrant readers and communities who aren’t a part of these decisions and to remind the Times of how words have been used to malign and stereotype people as somehow less than American.

“As journalists and as members of minority groups, we understand better than most people the power of words to degrade and dehumanize those who are considered undesirable, and we urge the Times’ editors to rethink their latest decision regarding the loaded word ‘illegal,’ ” said UNITY President Tom Arviso, Jr.

While we appreciate the Times’ desire to use language that is neutral and unbiased, we strongly believe that using the word “illegal” as an adjective or a noun absolutely takes sides in the immigration debate — by describing people only in terms of their immigration status and ability to live and work in the United States.

This is especially troubling coming from one of the world’s most respected and influential media companies — and in light of the fact that many of these immigrants are ethnic and racial minorities who remain vastly underrepresented in America’s newsrooms.

We urge The New York Times and other media organizations to consider the recommendations of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) to use the word “illegal” only to describe actions, not human beings. Or better yet, confine the word “illegal” to direct quotations, and drop the “I” word entirely.

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About UNITY:

UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, an alliance of four journalism organizations representing more than 4,000 journalists, is the most diverse journalism organization in the nation. A coalition of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association, UNITY is a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and LGBT issues and aggressively challenges news organizations to increase diversity in whom they employ at all levels of their companies.

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