Activists protest New York Times for using the term ‘illegal immigrant’

Progressive activists demonstrated outside New York Times headquarters on 8th Avenue in Manhattan Tuesday to protest the newspaper’s continuing use of the term “illegal immigrant” to describe persons who have immigrated illegally to this country.

While the Associated Press notably announced this month that it would replace the term “illegal immigrant” in its stylebook, The New York Times has so far not followed that policy.

“Soon after the election, late last fall, MoveOn.org began a petition drive focused on the New York Times that was started by Helen Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s widow,” Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center and one of the protest organizers, told The Daily Caller.

The New York Times allowed Vargas and a handfull of activists to deliver the petition. Photo tweeted by Rebekah Spicuglia.

The New York Times allowed Vargas and a handfull of activists to deliver the petition. Photo tweeted by Rebekah Spicuglia.

“All these years, I chose to stay in the background. I walked picket lines, managed our credit union, and took care of our eight children. Cesar respected my privacy. I never spoke in public or did an interview with a reporter. But I’m speaking out now to say: stop using the word ‘illegal’ to describe human beings,” Helen Chavez said in a statement Tuesday, the twentieth anniversary of her labor leader husband’s death.

Cesar Chavez, for his part, once used the term “illegal alien” in Senate testimony in 1979.

“It is apparent that when the farm workers strike and their strike is successful, the employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike,” Chavez said.

Cesar Chavez’s son, Fernando Chavez, and Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who “outed” himself as an “undocumented” immigrant in a June 2011 New York Times magazine essay, delivered the petitions to Times headquarters Tuesday afternoon, joined by activists from various organizations including MoveOn.org. Vargas has been challenging news outlets to amend their stylebooks with respect to the phrase “illegal immigrant” for nearly two years.

“It took three years to get outlets like the AP to stop using that particular phrase,” Sen told TheDC. “The New York Times is clearly a national journalistic leader. Many people think it’s the country’s newspaper of record. They cover immigration issues frequently. I actually can’t speculate as to why it is that they haven’t changed yet. They said that they have found the term historically accurate.”

“When you see Republican commentators and mainstream commentators on both the left and the right changing their language, you have to ask why The New York Times is still using language that is not only grammatically incorrect but also offensive to so many people,” Presente.org executive director and protest organizer Arturo Carmona told TheDC.