Rhonda LeValdo, President NAJA

Phone: 785-304-6624


NAJA responds to immigration terminology in news


NAJA supports removal of "illegal" from immigration coverage by national media organizations 


Media Release

Native American Journalists Association


NORMAN, Okla. - The Native American Journalists Association commends The Associated Press and other media outlets' end to the use of the word "illegal" when describing immigrants living in the U.S. without citizenship.

NAJA joins UNITY Journalists for Diversity, Inc. partners, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association, in calling for The New York Times and other news outlets that have yet to officially and fully end the use of the term in their coverage to do so.


AP announced that it would no longer accept "the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person," according to an April 2 blog post.


The company updated its stylebook to reflect the change with an entry that says the use of the word "illegal" should only refer to an action.


Since that time, other media organizations have reviewed their policies on the use of the term.

Native people recognize that offensive terminology creates stigmas and perpetuates stereotypes about minority groups. At documented points throughout American history, seemingly innocuous language was used to cast shame on individuals, making them feel inferior.


NAJA President Rhonda LeValdo said the organization supports the removal of this term from all media organizations' immigration coverage.

"As Native Americans, NAJA recognizes that no human being is illegal. In our own history, Natives have had religious practices deemed 'illegal' and been classified as enemy combatants under policies that disregarded tribal sovereignty," LeValdo said.


With this recent history in mind, NAJA supports the changes taking place in newsrooms across the country and recognizes that this dialogue would not be possible without the diversification of media to include staff from all backgrounds.

NAJA lends assistance and support to fellow associations, media organizations, reporters and newsrooms during this transition.




About NAJA:


NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures. NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression.  


NAJA is committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media. NAJA encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.


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