Use of ‘illegal’ outrages immigrant community
Between the case of an undocumented immigrant who entered sanctuary in a church in North Philly and President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, Philadelphia immigrants made headlines all of last week.
On Nov. 18 Honduran immigrant Angela Navarro entered into sanctuary at West Kensington Ministry, an event that received wide media coverage which included the 'mainstream media'. Reporters from newspapers, radio and television jumped on Navarro’s story to highlight every detail of her experience as an undocumented mother of two U.S. citizen children.
Then on Nov. 20, local immigrant groups gathered in various locations to watch President Obama’s speech on his executive action, through which an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants might be eligible to obtain legal status.
The next day undocumented immigrants once again made the headlines.
Erika Almirón, executive director of Juntos, woke up to an unexpected surprise when she read the Philadelphia Daily News coverage and realized the word 'illegal' was used throughout the article.
Almirón posted on her Facebook page that, "While I celebrate the fact that the Philadelphia Daily News came out to cover last night's event at Los Taquitos de Puebla with Vamos Juntos, we are outraged that they once again chose to use the words ‘illegal’ to describe our community."
She explained to AL DÍA that her organization had previously reached out to the Daily News about the use of the word 'illegal' in the coverage of the immigrant community.
"We understand that our work can be controversial, a lot of the immigration writing was happening from Stu Bykofsky’s perspective and there wasn’t a balance at the Daily News. Part of the conversation was that they needed to have reporters dedicated to this issue and editorial staff that would understand the issue," she said.
Almirón immediately called the reporter, Vinny Vella, who wrote the article in question, asking why he had used the term if both parts had reach a consensus on the matter.
"He told me he had used the word undocumented, and that the change came in through the editorial staff. Then he apologized," Almirón said.
Later the reporter confirmed that the word substitution was an editorial decision.
In April 2013 the Associated Press (AP) stopped sanctioning the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person in its stylebook, and the Daily News is an AP-style newspaper.
Daily News editor Michael Days responded to AL DÍA’s questions about the controversy.
"Yes, we follow AP style and should have for this story. Unfortunately, we referred to a dated AP Stylebook in the editing of this story,” Days said. "The day the story ran, the assistant managing editor Gar Joseph sent an email to editors and reporters reminding all that the term is not to be used except, except in a direct quotation".
"Obviously, we are not happy when we screw up," Days added.