CNN host and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper used the term “illegal immigrants” during the network's September 16 Republican presidential debate, in violation of the network's own guidelines and despite the advice of immigration and Hispanic journalists' advocacy organizations that have called on the network to discontinue the use of term.
Tapper used the term “illegal immigrants” while posing a question to 2016 GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, saying, “I want to bring in Dr. Carson because he too has been skeptical of your plan to immediately deport 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants,” in allusion to Donald Trump's immigration proposal.
Prior to the debate, CNN's Vice President of Diversity Geraldine Morida asserted, “The word illegal alone should never be used as a standalone noun to refer to individuals with documented or undocumented immigration status.” Morida's assertion was in response to the September 14 joint statement from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and immigration advocacy organization Define American calling on CNN to “modernize and improve the accuracy of its editorial guidelines and discontinue the use of the word 'illegal' when referring to undocumented immigrants.”
Morida's response is also in line with the Associated Press Stylebook which advises the term “illegal” only be used when referring to an action, not a person.
Derogatory terms like “illegal” and “alien” are frequently used by conservative politicians and media outlets like Fox News to describe undocumented immigrants despite calls to discontinue use of the term.
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that will remove the word “alien” from the state's labor code due to concerns that its usage “dehumanizes the people affected,” and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin questioned The New Yorker's use of the term in an August 5 column, concluding, “There does seem to be a consensus against the use of the term by the people most affected by it, who happen to be a vulnerable minority seeking a better life, and that's good enough for me. Personally, I'm dropping the use of the term 'illegal immigrant.'”