The Gist: Jose Antonio Vargas on immigration reform, and Jennifer Peter on Boson parking.

When the Phrase Illegal Immigrant Is Factually Incorrect, What Should We Say Instead?

When the Phrase Illegal Immigrant Is Factually Incorrect, What Should We Say Instead?

A daily news and culture podcast with Mike Pesca.
Feb. 24 2015 6:05 PM

Is Illegal Immigrant Offensive, Accurate, or Both?

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas says that illegal immigrant is a hurtful term, but Mike Pesca isn’t convinced that undocumented is more accurate.

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Jose Antonio Vargas does not like to be called “illegal,” so what should we call him and other individuals without legal residency status?

Photo Illustration by Slate. Photo Courtesy Jose Antonio Vargas, and photo from the film "Documented."

Listen to Episode 201 of Slate’s The Gist:


With 100 inches of snow landing on Boston this winter, the issue of cars and parking has inspired calumny and tire-slashing in the Boston area. On The Gist, Jennifer Peter, local editor for the Boston Globe, quietly admits that she’s a parking-space saver. Plus, how can we use language to better describe undocumented immigrants with empathy and without politics? Mike searches for the right term with Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who does not have legal residency status in America. For the Spiel, Bill O’Reilly might not be telling the truth.

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Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.