(NEW YORK) — On Tuesday afternoon, a group of advocates against the use of the term “illegal immigrant” gathered outside The New York Times building in Times Square to deliver a petition of protest. Organizers said the petition, which asked the paper to stop using the phrase, contained more than 70,000 signatures collected online.
Among those present were Jose Antonio Vargas, an immigration activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who revealed his undocumented status a year and a half ago in the Times‘ pages; Mónica Novoa, the coordinator for the Drop the I Word campaign; and Fernando Chavez, the eldest son of labor leader Cesar Chavez, who died exactly 20 years ago to the day.
Six leaders in the “Drop the I Word” movement waited at the company’s security desk to deliver the petition, initially hoping to meet with Executive Editor Jill Abramson. Instead, New York Times lawyer Ellen Herb came down to pick up the petition, which filled two cardboard boxes.
“We brought this for you as a gift as well,” said Vargas, handing Herb a poster emblazoned with the phrase “No human being is illegal” by artist Favianna Rodriguez.
The delivery of the petitions comes just weeks after the Associated Press, the largest news-gathering outlet in the world, dropped the term saying that it was part of the company’s ongoing attempt to rid its Stylebook of labels. That day, The New York Times also said that it would likely update its own standards guidelines with “incremental” changes to “provide more nuance and options.” But this hasn’t yet happened.
Vargas, who made clear that the gathering was “not a protest” but a “polite” delivery of the petition, also said that “the Times needs to get with the times.”
Many news sources have dropped the term in recent years.
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John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN