Illegal v. Undocumented

In keeping with the Left’s ambitious agenda to disassociate the word “illegal” with anything “immigrant”, the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) and specifically, their Diversity Committee, has set out on a mission to replace the terms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” with the more politically correct “undocumented worker” or “undocumented person”, with regards to how journalists report on immigration matters.


Claiming that the change is not related to “political correctness”, Leo Laurence, of SPJ’s Diversity Committee, argues that the very terms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” are unconstitutional in that “the only person who can properly say that someone is doing something illegally is a judge; not a journalist or politician or anti-immigrant advocate.”


Apparently ignoring the irony that only a judge has the authority to label something “unconstitutional”, and not a journalist, Mr. Laurence continues his argument, claiming that the terms “illegal immigrant” and  “more offensively: ‘illegal aliens’” are derogatory in nature, and offensive to Latin-Americans. Whether or not something is offensive is up to each individual person however, Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (which pertains to immigration law), and the Immigration and Nationality Act, both use the term “alien” in defining a noncitizen. Both also use the words “illegal” and “immigrant”. Given that both have stood up to legal, and constitutional, muster, I’m fairly comfortable using the word “illegal” when describing a person who enters this country without the proper authorization to do so.


Going one step further, Mr. Laurence would prefer that, if a journalist continues to use the more offensive terms in their writings that they preface it with “alleged” or “suspected”, much in the same fashion that most journalists report on crime. The problem, of course, is that more often than not, articles related to crime in which the words “alleged” or “suspected” are used are generally specific to a single suspect who has only been charged with a crime, and not found guilty of it. Normally, the suspect is named, and includes other identifying characteristics, such as age or employment. Most articles related to immigration are more broad in nature, and do not contain specific “suspect” information. With that said, a simple fact remains that any person who enters this country without proper authorization has done so illegally and, when written in broad terms, no single person is being found guilty by a journalist; the journalist is simply pointing out the obvious.


Mr. Laurence lacks even basic logic in his argument, and it serves no purpose other than trying to further widen the gap between “illegal” and “immigration”, with “illegal” carrying a very harsh tone and “undocumented” conveying the sense that the immigrant simply forgot their greencard at home. The more the Leftist media can soften the tone on immigration, the greater the likelihood that more and more Americans will begin to erroneously believe that illegal immigration is not a serious matter. As more and more people begin to read the nicer, and more politically correct word “undocumented”, so too will their attitudes begin to change, allowing Congress and the President the opportunity to make serious reforms to immigration with little political fallout.