“Undocumented” v “Illegal”

As the conversation over how to fix our nation’s broken immigration system re-emerges as a top tier issue, media outlets continue to struggle providing competent and quality coverage on this issue.  Despite the fact that immigration reform has been one of the most debated topics in Congress this past decade, there remains much confusion about what a comprehensive immigration reform bill would accomplish, and why it impacts so many people and industries.  That portion of the conversation will resolve itself over the course of the next few months.

What still perplexes me is the irony regarding media coverage about this issue and the use  of the term “illegal immigrants” versus “undocumented immigrants.”  First, people are not illegal.  They may lack legal status, but by no means are people under any circumstances illegal.  People can commit illegal activities, but they are not illegal just for being a person.  Next, the media has covered the political correlations of this issue extensively.  It goes a little like this, “tired of losing the Latino vote to Democrats, Republicans are pivoting on immigration to give their party a chance at regaining the White House.”  They will even tell you that Republicans’ extreme positions and harsh rhetoric on immigration cost them support among Latino voters.

So if the media knows that Latinos are so turned off by harsh rhetoric, why do they continue to use the phrase “illegal immigrants?”   Even Republicans are aware that this phrase has caused them problems with the Latino community, and are using the term undocumented immigrants which is preferred by immigrant communities.  It is astonishing to me that media outlets both credible and not-so credible continue to use a term that they know is offensive and insulting to the group of people about whom they are reporting.  Hopefully, no media outlet will be using the “I” word by the time this debate is concluded.