How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Highlights from today's AirTalk: Illegal, undocumented, or unauthorized?

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student activist's t-shirt, December 2010

Today's AirTalk with Larry Mantle on KPCC took on the debate (here's the audio) over what to call immigrants who live and work in the United States without permission. I provided some background while Larry fielded calls from listeners with their take on whether the correct term should be "illegal," "undocumented," or "unauthorized."

It's a debate that has existed in newsrooms for years, but has heated up recently. The Associated Press continues to use "illegal immigrant," clarifying earlier this month in its updated stylebook that while the AP doesn't condone the use of “illegal aliens,” “illegals” or “an illegal,” neither does it sanction the use of ”undocumented.”

The AP Stylebook is used as a guide by most mainstream media. But professional organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have taken a position on the terms, eschewing "illegal" in favor of "undocumented." And the social-justice advocacy magazine ColorLines, which last year launched a "Drop the I-Word" campaign aimed at media, recently urged readers to contact the AP and suggest that "illegal immigrant" be dropped for the 2012 edition of the stylebook.

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Encore: 'The New American Reality' (Video)

I've been attending the Latinos in Social Media (#LATISM) conference in Chicago, where during a panel this morning, I saw once more the moving Univision video titled "The New American Reality." I posted the video several months ago, after first seeing it during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Orlando.

It's just as good now as it was then, with simple lines and graphics that not only bring to life the census data on the growing Latino population in the U.S., but which describe the dual identity lived by children of immigrants a way that is spot-on. So here's an encore.

One of my favorite lines: "I live at the intersection of my two cultures. I take from each what I choose."

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Dropping the 'Americanized' nickname

Photo by broken thoughts/Flickr (Creative Commons)


I've been catching up on my reading after a few busy days in Florida spent at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention, and among the great items I've sifted through is an interesting post on WAMU’s DCentric blog about ‘Americanized’ nicknames.

These are the first names that some immigrants and children of immigrants adopt, at least temporarily, to help them navigate mainstream America, the Henrys that take the place of Enrique, the Marys that replace Maria, the Western first names that replace Asian ones.

As adults, some people drop these and reclaim their given names - and DCentric blogger Elahe Izadi is among those who has done it.

In the post, she mentions the story of Fawaz Ismail, a Palestinian American recently featured in a Washington Post series on American Muslims enduring the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Growing up in Texas, Ismail was known to his friends as Tony. But in the wake of the anti-Muslim backlash that followed the attacks, he went back to Fawaz.

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'The New American Reality' (Video)

One of the visual highlights today at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Orlando, Florida was a video produced by Univision, shown during a lunchtime panel on Spanish-language media and intended to drive home its importance as a way of reaching the vast and growing Latino market.

But the video's simple lines describing life lived between two cultures spoke to many in the room, who soon began tweeting about it, in a personal way.

A few of the lines that resonated:

I live at the intersection of my two cultures. I take from each what I choose.

I move easily between two worlds because I speak Spanish and I speak English. Y a veces I speak both.

My duality is my reality.


Substitute the Spanish for Korean, Vietnamese, Farsi, Armenian or any other first language retained by the American children of immigrants, and the lines apply universally.

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Greetings from the Sunshine State

Photo by Calsidyrose/Fickr (Creative Commons)

I’ve just arrived in Orlando, Florida, where I’ll be spending the next couple of days participating in this year’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention. I'll be speaking on two panels related to immigration, so if any Multi-American readers are in town, stop by and say hello.

Thursday morning I'll be joining Al Jazeera journalist Dima Khatib to discuss the coverage of Islamic communities in the United States during what has been a difficult and extraordinary period for Middle Eastern immigrants and their descendants. The panel starts at 10:30 a.m.

At 9 a.m. Friday I'll be on an immigration reporting panel with two journalism professors and an immigration attorney. We'll talk about how the news media has reported stories like that of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law, and how to improve coverage of immigration issues.

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