In practice, Los Angeles Times reporters have not been using the term “illegal immigrant,” but now it’s official. On Wednesday a memo was sent to the newsroom staff from the Times’ Standards and Practices Committee announcing a change moving away from the label “illegal immigrants” and asking reporters to describe the individual’s circumstances.
“We know that language matters and that our word choices must likewise be fair, nuanced and precise,” said the memo. “‘Illegal immigrants is overly broad and does not accurately apply in every situation,” the memo added.
The committee said the term “undocumented immigrants” falls short of describing a person’s status since in many cases immigrants who possess passports or other documentation do not have valid visas.
In a story written about the change in the Los Angeles Times, the paper points out how reporters have been describing immigrants within the new guidelines already like a Cindy Chang’s story introducing the person this way: “She was 6 months old when she crossed the border illegally, carried in her mother’s arms.”
“After hearing strong arguments for and against the current Times style, we concluded that it was time for a new approach,” stated the memo.
This announcement comes on the heels of the Associated Press changing their policy on April 2, followed weeks later by The New York Times statement that while the paper is not dropping the term, it is encouraging its writers to use more descriptive terms when it comes to explaining a person’s immigration status.