Take Care With The Word ‘Refugees’

The people in Puerto Rico who have had their lives turned upside down by the hurricane are U.S. citizens, as we all know and as we’ve been careful to note. That means the word “refugees” can be misleading if it adds to a sense that these are “foreigners” (a word that definitely should not be used) or are in some way “others” who are leaving one country to seek shelter in another. Puerto Ricans who move to Florida are not leaving one country for another.

That said, many are certainly seeking refuge. And people who are now living in shelters on the island are known as “refugiados.”

We don’t need to ban the word refugee from our coverage. Just please watch how it sounds or reads in the context of a story and ask whether it makes it seem as if the people of Puerto Rico are not U.S. citizens.

(“Memmos;” Oct. 3, 2017)

October 3, 2017

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