How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Survey asks unauthorized immigrants which term they'd rather hear used, 'illegal' or 'undocumented'

As the debate over the terms "undocumented" and "illegal" has resurfaced in the media in recent days, ABC and Univision have put together a survey that makes logical sense: Why not ask the people referred to as "illegal" and "undocumented" themselves about how they'd prefer to be described?

Univision News posted the survey today. It's in English and Spanish. How the intro reads:

Here at ABC/Univision, we're working on an article about which term people without authorization would prefer used in the media and looking to hear from immigrant without status. Please fill out this form to help us with our reporting. If you choose to fill out our survey, our journalist may contact you. This information will be used in part two of a story we did with Jose Antonio Vargas. To learn more, read here: http://abcn.ws/R5G8at

Vargas, the former Washington Post journalist who last year revealed he'd been brought to the U.S. illegally from the Philippines when he was 12, rekindled the debate last week in during the annual Online News Association conference in San Francisco. Vargas referred to the term "illegal immigrant" as "an inhumane term," among other things. 

He later told reporters that "Right now, my two main targets, and I say that politely, are going to be The New York Times and the Associated Press." Vargas tweeted the survey out earlier today.

The AP Stylebook continues to condone use of "illegal immigrant," although some news organizations no longer use it, or use the term in addition to alternatives like "undocumented immigrant."

In the ABC/Univision survey, respondents are asked:

Which term do you prefer be used when talking about immigration status: illegal immigrant, undocumented immigrant, or something else?

¿Cuál frase prefieres para describir estatus migratorio: inmigrante ilegal, inmigrante indocumentado o algo diferente?

They are then asked to explain why the prefer the term they choose.

It's an interesting experiment. The term "ilegal" doesn't necessarily carry the same political weight when used among first-generation native Spanish speakers, but that changes with acculturation. Bilingual second-generation Spanish speakers who are accustomed to the use of "illegal" are more apt to see it differently.

ABC and Univision announced earlier this year they were partnering to create a cable news channel aimed at a Latino audience, but with English-language programming.

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