Ethicist says drop ‘i-word’

Baptist Center for Ethics head Robert Parham says language matters when talking about immigration.

By Bob Allen

A Baptist ethicist says it’s time for churches to stop using the word “illegal” when talking about immigration.

robert-parham“Let's drop the ‘i-word’ in church and community conversations,” Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, wrote April 8 on

More than two years ago the United Methodist Church launched a “Drop the I-Word” national campaign calling for the elimination of the word “illegal” in such discussions.

Recently, the Associated Press dropped the term “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook used by media across the country. The AP now tells users that “illegal” cannot describe a person but only an action, such as living in the country illegally.

Amid all the talk during the last year about comprehensive immigration reform, Parham noted that politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to use the phrase “illegal immigrant.”

“In the debate over comprehensive immigration reform, Washington jockeys for future political power, while Big Labor and Big Business arm-wrestle over who will benefit the most in terms of future economic gain,” Parham said.

Parham said churches have “a different duty, a moral role, on the immigration front.”

“Part of that moral duty is to challenge the negative narratives and half-truths about the undocumented,” he wrote. “Part of that task is to change the language in our culture.”