Fox News has chosen to ignore the specific instruction of the Associated Press Style Book, which urges journalists not to shorten the phrase to exclude the word “immigrant,” and calls by several news associations to stop using the word because it “pollutes” and can “skew public debate” on immigration.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) explained why the term is problematic:
NAHJ is concerned with the increasing use of pejorative terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. NAHJ is particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word “illegals” as a noun, shorthand for “illegal aliens”. 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. NAHJ calls on the media to never use “illegals” in headlines.
Shortening the term in this way also stereotypes undocumented people who are in the United States as having committed a crime. Under current U.S. immigration law, being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a civil violation. Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of all undocumented people living in the U.S. are visa overstayers, meaning they did not illegally cross the U.S. border.
Tonight, immigration attorney Susan Church took that case directly to Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor (emphasis added):
CROWLEY: Susan, we're either a nation of laws or we're not. So why is this administration, then, rewarding the illegal act of entering the country in violation of our laws?
SUSAN CHURCH, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, it's funny that you say the term 2 million, because there's only 300,000 immigrants currently in deportation proceedings, and believe it or not, sometimes it's actually difficult to get into deportation proceedings. So this only applies to an extremely small number of immigrants. Within that subset of 300,000, no one with any criminal history whatsoever will be included. The categories are even more narrow for people -
CROWLEY: But Susan -
CHURCH: If I could finish, the categories are even -
CROWLEY: If they entered the country illegally, doesn't that make them a criminal?
CHURCH: No, that's a misnomer of Fox News, it's a civil violation.
CROWLEY: Oh, so entering the country illegally is not a criminal act?
CHURCH: So as I was saying -
CROWLEY: Wow, that's news on The Factor.