Applaud L.A. Times For Avoiding Dehumanizing Language When Discussing Immigration

Target: Eddy W. Hartenstein, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer, L.A. Times

Goal: Applaud L.A. Times for prohibiting the use of terms such as “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants” in articles.

The Los Angeles Times recently announced that it would be putting an end to the use of terms such as “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants” in its reporting. These new guidelines are intended to “provide relevance and context and to avoid labels.”

The traditional terms used to describe immigrants who travel to the United States without papers are “aliens,” “illegal immigrants,” or the less offensive “undocumented immigrants.” However, each of these terms carries its own stigma, and they are often too broad to accurately represent every immigrant situation. The terms are also dehumanizing, and frequently lead to the villainization of immigrants who reside in the United States illegally. The L.A. Times also added that the expressions are, “also untrue in many cases, as with immigrants who possess passports or other documentation but lack valid visas.”

This change has only recently been written into the guidelines of the L.A. Times; however, the philosophy has been in practice for some time, with writers reporting on immigration with descriptions such as, “… she and her family had moved here a decade ago from the Philippines without papers.” The simple change in language offers a fair depiction of each individual case. The L.A. Times stated that the newspaper “aim[s] to report with authority and balance — to be fair, nuanced and precise. We know that language matters and that our word choices must likewise be fair, nuanced and precise.”

This is an extraordinary step, and a positive move by the L.A. Times. Immigration law and immigration reform are important topics in today’s political atmosphere, and impartiality by the media is, therefore, of utmost importance. Any phrases, terms, or expressions that unfairly represent individuals, or fail to tell the whole story, should be removed from the reporting vocabulary. Sign the petition below to applaud the L.A. Times for this action.


Dear Eddy W. Hartenstein,

Recently, the L.A. Times put into writing a philosophy that L.A. Times reporters have been practicing for some time; the newspaper formally added a guideline stating that it would be putting an end to the use of terms such as “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants” in their reporting. I am writing today to express my admiration for this positive change.

Words such as “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented immigrants” carry a stigma with them, and are often used to dehumanize individuals. The terms do not offer context, or accurately depict every situation. I believe, therefore, for the sake of impartial, nuanced reporting, removing such phrases from articles in the L.A. Times is an exceptionally positive step.


[Your Name Here]

Image Credit: NS Newsflash via Flickr.

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One Comment

  1. Robert Ortiz says:

    Regardless of race, country of origin or legal status, they are still human beings and should be treated and referred to as such and not in derogative or outdated terms.

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