The Common Good

Remind the AP That People Aren’t 'Illegal'

The words we use are powerful, especially when it comes to talking about people created in God’s image. Word choice shapes how people perceive events and respond to the arguments made by people in the public arena. As Christians, we are called to speak up when our society uses language that dehumanizes and degrades our brothers and sisters.

Journalists and others in the media should be the first to understand this phenomenon. Unfortunately, reporters from TV stations and newspapers still label undocumented immigrants as “illegal.” This dehumanizing term robs people of their dignity and prejudices readers against the real needs of immigrant communities.

These reporters often follow the standards set by the Associated Press Stylebook, which is the authoritative guide for journalists across the country on everything from punctuation to word choice.  

Sojourners is joining with others asking the Associated Press to change their guidance and declare that “illegal immigrant” is no longer an acceptable term for professional journalists to use. Ending the use of this controversial phrase by the media would create a more compassionate and accurate conversation about immigration. It is a small change that could make a huge difference. You can help make that happen.

Click here to send an e-mail to David Minthorn, the deputy standards editor at AP and co-editor of the AP Stylebook, asking the AP to curb the use of this degrading term.

Janelle Tupper is the Campaigns Assistant at Sojourners. 

Photo: filmfoto / Shutterstock. 

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