Attorney General Jeff Sessions has instructed that the term “undocumented immigrant” not be used to refer to someone in the country illegally and that they should be referred using the legal term under US code “illegal alien.”
“The word ‘undocumented’ is not based in US code and should not be used to describe someone’s illegal presence in the country,” the email states.
An immigrant who is in the US legally or whose status is unknown is to be described by their country of citizenship, it adds.
US citizens or green card holders are referred to as a “resident” of the state or city where they live, and the guidance says if their citizenship or status can be referenced if it is part of the factual record of the case.The issue of how to describe people in the US illegally has long been a subject of heated debate. In 2013, The Associated Press Stylebook changed its terminology to not describe a person as illegal, only actions. The AP Stylebook is widely followed across media outlets in the US. Most outlets, including CNN use the term “undocumented immigrant,” and only use terms like “alien” when directly quoting a government agency or official.
The Justice Department guidance says the goal is “to clear up some confusion and to be consistent in the way we draft our releases” and describes the particular way regional offices should refer to individuals in news releases.
Naturally, outfits even more to the left than CNN have weighed in like “Al Dia,” a latino advocacy group masquerading as a news outlet. They are incensed at this campaign to “dehumanize undocumented immigrants“:
The tools of Donald Trump’s government to dehumanize undocumented immigrants – especially those from Latin America – are increasingly clever.
The president has referred to people born in Mexico as “rapists” and “bad hombres,” and immigrants who cross the country’s southern border “animals.” His officials (especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions) embrace new policies of “zero tolerance” against the Hispanic community in the U.S. Now, the transformation of official language is one of the most powerful symptoms of the new social reality of the country.
According to CNN, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has informed all of the lawyers’ offices in the country that they should abandon the term “undocumented” in legal proceedings, and refer to whoever is “illegally” in the country as an “illegal alien.”
During times when words and headlines weigh heavily, using the word “undocumented” remains the best way to avoid collaborating with a campaign of stigmatization and segregation while at the same time resisting changes in the trenches of journalism.