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Society of Professional Journalists votes against use of 'illegal alien' and 'illegal immigrant'

FishbowlLA reports that the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the largest national organizations representing members of the media, adopted a resolution this week recommending that newsrooms abandon the use of "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien."

According to Fishbowl and The Maynard Institute, Texas journalist and SPJ member Rebecca Aguilar testified before the vote as to how her naturalized citizen mother "felt insulted" whenever she heard the "illegal" term. Aguilar is also a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which has long supported the use of "undocumented" versus "illegal."

More recently, the social justice advocacy magazine ColorLines has been behind a similar campaign aimed at media, called  "Drop the I-Word." The use of "illegal immigrant" is sanctioned in the Association Press Stylebook, however, used as a style guide by most mainstream U.S. media outlets. From the SPJ resolution:

"WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be "honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information" and;

"WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase "illegal immigrant" and the more offensive and bureaucratic "illegal alien" to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

"WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

"WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as "innocent-until-proven-guilty," applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

"WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an illegal act and;

"WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

"THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories."