NAHJ Asks CNN to Drop Use of the Word "Illegal" from GOP Presidential Debate


CNN’s Republican presidential debate is quickly approaching, leaving members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) concerned with the network’s use of offensive – and inaccurate – terms like "illegals," "illegal alien" or "illegal immigrant" when discussing immigrants who are undocumented.

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NAHJ president Mekahlo Medina told the news organization that, "using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed."

According to Medina, CNN responded to NAHJ’s concerns on Monday night, informing them that the network would give their editorial departments new guidelines regarding the term.

In doing so, CNN would also be following the Associated Press Stylebook, an editorial guideline used by many newsrooms, which forbids the use of "illegals," "illegal aliens" and "an illegal." The AP, however, also advises publications to not use the word "undocumented," suggesting "entering a country illegally" or "without legal permission" as alternatives.

Rev. Ryan M. Eller, executive director of Define American, a group working with NAHJ to stop media use of the term, told NBC News, "when language is just flatly wrong, bluntly racist, and overtly dehumanizing, dismissing it as 'political correctness' simply serves to absolve inaccuracy, racism and inhumanity."

Eller says "this isn't about hurt feelings, it's about creating a society where people aren't defined by societal prejudices."

PLUS: WATCH: This Video Offers Republicans Eight Phrases to Use Better than 'Anchor Baby'

CNN will host the second Republican presidential debate on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

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About this author

Raquel Reichard, Politics & Culture Editor

Raquel is the Politics & Culture Editor and Latina magazine, writing on all things policy, social justice, cultura and health. Formerly at millennial news site Mic, Raquel's work can also be found at the New York TimesCosmo for Latinas, the Washington Post, the Independent and more. A proud NuyoFloRican chonga, when Raquel's not talking Latina feminism, racial justice, the "x" in Latinx or the prison industrial complex, she's going on and on about the Puerto Rican diaspora in Orlando, Fla. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Snapchat at @RaquelReichard.


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