As a media advocacy organization, GLAAD understands that media has the power to either inflame or help diminish prejudice toward any group. That is why we are part of “Drop the I-Word,” a campaign urging media to stop using the word “illegal” when speaking about undocumented immigrants.
And that is why we are so disappointed with the New York Times’ decision not to ban the use of the term but to instead urge reporters to seek alternatives.
Describing a person as illegal – or worse, as “AN” illegal – reduces that person to an adjective and stops dialogue by allowing people to forget that there are human beings at the heart of this issue.
There are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States (about 267,000 of whom are LGBT), and the term “illegal” unfairly stigmatizes them.
For us at GLAAD the battle is reminiscent of the work we did to educate the media about the term “homosexual.” This word similarly reduces all members of a diverse and vibrant community to a single adjective, which describes only a tiny fragment of their humanity.