Live Not by Lies, Immigration Reporting Edition

News organizations have been banning use of the words “illegals” or “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” by their writers because of political pressure and post-American bias. But the ostensible reason is greater accuracy. The goal, as the Los Angeles Times put it, was to “provide relevance and context and to avoid labels.”

One of the results of requiring long, unwieldy substitutes (“immigrants who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas”) is that the resulting headlines, which are by nature brief, end up being false. I don’t mean they convey less information or can’t tell the full story — headlines are always thus. I mean they are lying to the reader about the substance of the story they purport to describe.

See the Los Angeles Times itself, which ran a story last week headlined “California bill would ease professional licensing rules for immigrants.” ”Immigrants”? Does California really have different licensing rules for attorneys and “doctors, dentists, nurses, barbers, security guards and many others” simply because they were born abroad rather than born here? That would be alarming indeed. I’m with TR in this respect: “We should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin.”

Ah, but then you read the story and find out it’s not immigrants for whom the bill would ease licensing rules, but rather people who don’t have Social Security numbers — i.e., for that subset of immigrants who are here illegally, and even then only for the subset of illegals without SSNs (foreign workers and most foreign students are issued SSNs, which remain valid even if they overstay and become illegals).

The paper version of The Hill does the same thing today on this story, whose inside jump headline is “Dems disagree over immigrant soldiers.” But the story isn’t about the treatment of those members of the armed forces who happened to have been born abroad — it’s about whether to allow illegal aliens to enlist at all (and thus get amnestied).

A story about a bank robbery would never be headed “Police seek bank customers.” A story about tougher DUI rules wouldn’t be described as “Drivers face longer sentences.” Entitling stories that are specifically and exclusively about illegal aliens as though they were about immigrants in general provides neither “relevance” nor “context.” It doesn’t even “avoid labels” so much as apply a different one. But because of political correctness our media not only embrace this falsehood, but mandate it.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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