Update: Guidance On Immigration

It’s been three years since we issued guidance on the language to use and avoid when reporting about illegal immigration.

Since then, a couple references have worked their way into common usage and no longer seem to fall into the category of loaded language.

Here, then, is updated guidance:

- The debate is still about “illegal immigration” and what to do about it. “Illegal immigration” remains an acceptable term when we’re reporting about the issue.

- When we’re reporting about the people at the center of this story, it’s still best practice to begin with action words, rather than labels. Two examples: They are “in the country illegally” or have “entered the country illegally.”

- In subsequent references, we now think it’s OK to mix in the phrases “undocumented immigrants” and “unauthorized immigrants.” They are now in common usage. And, unlike the label “illegal immigrants,” they are not phrases sometimes used to hurt others. (Our approach on this language is similar to what we’ve said about the debate over health care – it is best practice to first refer to the law Republicans want to replace as the “Affordable Care Act”. Then it’s OK to say “Obamacare.”)

- “Undocumented” is also OK in headlines.

For an example of how to handle immigration language, see John Burnett’s report on “Riding With ICE: ‘We’re Trying To Do The Right Thing.’

(“Memmos;” July 25, 2017)

 

July 25, 2017

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