How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Can a word fuel hate? More input on 'illegal' vs. 'undocumented'

Photo by stay sick/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Graffiti in Munich, Germany, February 2008

Some say yes and some say no, but the words "illegal," "undocumented" and "unauthorized" have, at least, fueled a very heated discussion on this site since last week.

The debate over what to call immigrants who live and work in the United States without permission was the subject of a series of posts last week, and of a popular segment on KPCC's AirTalk with Larry Mantle. Over the holiday weekend, Multi-American readers continued to post their thoughts.

The illegal-undocumented debate is an old one in newsrooms, but here's some of the recent background: In 2004 the Associated Press, whose stylebook is followed by most mainstream media, made “illegal immigrant” its official term. There has been backlash since, including from organizations like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists, both of which prefer “undocumented" over "illegal."