Univision criticizes New York Times for use of “illegal immigrant”

Univision has brought the debate over the term “illegal immigrant” to the forefront of the public eye by criticizing the New York Times for its use of the phrase. The nation’s top-rated Spanish-language broadcast network published its qualms last week in a series of articles on its English-language website, after The Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan defended the paper’s decision to continue using the term “illegal immigrant.”

Although Sullivan explained her decision as a matter of accuracy, Univision claims that Latinos largely find the term offensive and suggested that The New York Times’ decision may be the result of a lack of diversity.

In a blog post published October 2nd, Sullivan wrote that after some thought she had sided against the term “undocumented.” “Just as ‘illegal tenant’ in a real estate story (another phrase you could have seen in Times articles or headlines) is brief and descriptive, so is ‘illegal immigrant,” Sullivan wrote. “In neither case is there an implication that those described that way necessarily have committed a crime, although in some cases they may have. The Times rightly forbids the expressions ‘illegals’ and ‘illegal aliens.'”

Univision responded with a series of articles critiquing Sullivan’s logic and portraying the paper as out-of-touch with Latinos. In a post titled, “The Times Is Behind the Times,” Univision noted that many media outlets that with Latino audiences avoid the term “illegal immigrant.”

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists launched a campaign to get newspapers to drop the term “illegal immigrant” back in 2006. According to then-Executive Director Ivan Roman, “It is much easier to dehumanize and to silence somebody when you’re calling them an illegal.”

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