Adding their voices to a debate that also has engaged media organizations, UCLA’s undergraduate student government recently approved a resolution that condemned the use of the term “illegal” when describing immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission.
The so-called “Drop the I-Word” resolution declared, in part, that: “We are aware that certain racially derogatory language used in media, political discourse and other institutional settings has historically bolstered the foundation for racially harmful actions including racial profiling practices, punitive policies targeting socially marginalized groups, hate crimes and violence.”
It also said that some students have expressed fears about the appointment of Janet Napolitano as the next UC system president because she helped oversee an expansion of deportations during her recently concluded term as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. The students said they were concerned that Napolitano might force out students whose families entered the country illegally, an allegation she denies.
“Journalists have an obligation to use neutral language that promotes democratic dialogue and upholds professional ethics and standards, and the term illegals is incorrect and inaccurate usage, as well as unfair and offensive,” the resolution said.
It urged the use of “a more civilized and human tone in public discourses and policies on immigrants” in journalism and campus discussions and suggested the terms “foreign nationals, undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant” as acceptable substitutes.
The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times are among media outlets that recently have decided to avoid using “illegal immigrant” in articles unless the term is part of a direct quote. The Times, which also is restricting the use of the term “undocumented immigrant,” has told its writers to use more specific language, such as: “He was brought here as a child by his parents, who entered the U.S. without a visa.”