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Immigrant Students Struggle to Define Themselves, Win ‘Subtle’ Change at USA Today

by Jacquelyn Mahendra on 12/22/2009 at 7:24am

Rigo et alLast week we brought you the story of immigrant students putting pressure on USA Today to change a provocative and misleading headline on a piece about young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act.

Well, today those same advocates have cause to celebrate what they are calling a “subtle” victory on the road toward self-definition.

Prerna Lal writes in “USA TODAY Changes Gears in Reference to Immigrant Youth:”

Today, after more than 500 letters from all of you at Change.org, USA TODAY responded subtly and changed the phrase to “illegal immigrant students,” a reference that is getting pervasive in the mainstream media. New York Times also used this to reference immigrant youth quite recently. This forces the issue into a longer public education campaign and the need for mainstream media to re-evaluate their policies in referring to undocumented immigrants. They simply fail to grasp the issue that no person can be illegal.

At the same time, this subtle change tells us that a few hundred emails and calls have the power to drive change. There should be some solace in knowing that any media source that refers to immigrant students as “illegal students”  will have to bear the brunt of young immigrants who simply want the right to define themselves.

Every subtle victory is an important step forward (or, in this case, an important reminder that we cannot afford to step backward with blatantly inaccurate and misleading terminology) — great work to the Change.org and DreamActivst.org advocates and dedicated bloggers who kept the pressure on USA Today to change their flawed headline.

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