Drop the I-Word Calls on Associated Press to Remove Illegal Immigrant from Stylebook

Media contact:
Monica Novoa
Campaign Coordinator, Drop the I-Word
Applied Research Center (ARC)
[email protected]
Drop the I-Word Campaign Calls on the Associated Press to Remove the Term “Illegal Immigrant” from its Stylebook
November 14, 2011 (New York, NY) – The national Drop the I-Word campaign (droptheiword.com) today called for the AP Stylebook to cease use of the term “illegal immigrant.” Drop the I-Word is a public education campaign to eradicate the harmful term “illegals” and related words from public discourse, led by the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Colorlines.com, and working in partnership with the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) and its Somos/We Are Initiative, as well as various other institutions. Through individual and organizational endorsements, thousands of people have pledged to drop the i-word.
The AP Stylebook is the go-to reference for journalists and is expected to be accurate, objective and respectful. Two weeks ago the AP Stylebook updated the entry “illegal immigrant” rather than dropping the term altogether. The Drop the I-Word campaign in turn has activated the community and its allies in submitting suggestions via http://bit.ly/dtiwapaction to the AP Stylebook, which will be taking suggestions until tomorrow, November 15. In the past year there have been many significant events indicating to the AP that the term “illegal immigrant” is not acceptable.
“The Associated Press has to decide if it wants to be known as an organization that is behind the times or if it will really update and respond to the call from the community, journalists and people who want rational discussion,” said Drop the I-Word Campaign Coordinator Mónica Novoa. “Any reference to immigrants as “illegal” is legally inaccurate, harmful, and racially charged.”
The UCLA Chicano Research Center just released a study on hate speech on the radio in which they found that anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hate speech including the i-word, is tied to political nativism. Casting immigrants as “illegal” fuels dehumanization, criminalization and anti-immigrant legislation across the country, most recently in Alabama. Of note, the Applied Research Center’s recent report Shattered Families, revealed that more than 5,000 children have been separated from their families as the child welfare system and immigration enforcement have intersected. Dropping the i-word is about getting rid of the hate in the immigration debate, which informs how people are treated as a result.
Language matters. Since the fall 2010 launch of the Drop the I-Word Campaign:

  • Colorlines.com released an investigation of how anti-immigration advocates have pushed out the i-word and helped to make it sound “fair”
  • José Antonio Vargas came out as undocumented in the New York Times, making the term “undocumented” a Twitter trending topic and motivating journalists and others to reconsider and/or question their use of the i-word
  • The Society of Professional Journalists with 7,800-members, passed a resolution to discontinue use of the term “illegal alien” and suggest continued discussion to re-evaluate the use of “illegal immigrant.” And our Campaign was endorsed by the national UNITY journalist alliance of over 10,000 members.

The movement to Drop the I-Word comes at the end of a decade that has seen both a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and a rise in hate crimes against communities of color. According to FBI statistics, nationally, hate crimes against Latinos, when compared with hate crimes against other racial/ethnic groups, have risen at the highest rate, with a 25 percent increase between 2004 and 2008.
Kai Wright, Editor of ColorLines.com stated, “Foreign nationals, undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant, immigrant without papers and immigrant seeking status are all accurate terms we can use. We can stop unintentionally fueling racial profiling and encourage others to uphold the same professional standards.”
For information on how to take action go to http://bitly/dtiwapaction.
About ARC
The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a 30-year-old racial justice think tank that uses media, research and activism to promote solutions. ARC’s mission is to popularize racial justice and prepare people to achieve it. ARC also serves as the publisher of Colorlines.com. For more information on ARC’s work, please visit www.arc.org.  
About Drop the I-Word
Drop the I-Word is a public education campaign powered by immigrants and diverse communities across the country that value human dignity and are working to eradicate the dehumanizing term "illegals" and related language, from everyday use and public discourse. The i-word opens the door to racial profiling and violence and prevents truthful, respectful debate on immigration. No human being is "illegal."