SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



Seen & Heard: ‘Illegal alien’ vs. ‘undocumented immigrant’

By Billy O'Keefe

Compiled and photographed by Nikki Villoria
Which do you use in your publication, and why?


“Undocumented immigrant because it is the real truth, what separates them from everyone else is papers.” – Rosa Salamea, student, Bloomfield (N.J.) College

“Whatever sounds the most professional without being rude.” –Amira Olufemi Onibudo, student, Bloomfield (N.J.) College



“I definitely wouldn’t think to use ‘undocumented immigrant’, so I’d have to use the first one. I don’t know how else it would be said casually.” – Mike Cowan marketing director, Demand Media Studios, Santa Monica, Calif.



“I’d never use the term illegal by itself because it’s really pejorative. I probably leaned toward illegal immigrant, a combination of both” – Ben Meyerson, reporter, the Wednesday Journal, Oak Park, Ill.



“(Illegal alien) because it’s the term I’ve always heard. I always hear that one, I’m sure I read the immigrant one, but you don’t hear that one in conversation.” – Nicole Willis, editorial assistant, the Orlando Sentinel




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