07/15/2014 01:31 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2014

Here's One Way Jose Antonio Vargas Is Already Winning His Fight


While the detention of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, undocumented immigrant and activist Jose Antonio Vargas in Texas on Tuesday is a personal setback for him, the way the media has handled the story shows how effective Vargas and other advocates have been in changing the terms of the debate surrounding immigration in the United States.

One of the main media battles immigrant-rights activists have fought over the years is the push for journalists to stop using the term "illegal immigrant."

In a 2012 speech, Vargas—a former HuffPost editor—described why people found the label so offensive.

"The term dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe," he said. "Think of it this way, in what other context do we call someone illegal?"

Multiple outlets eventually pledged to curb or drop their use of "illegal immigrant." The fruits of that fight could be seen in how Vargas was described in the press coverage of his detention.

The New York Times called Vargas "an undocumented Filipino immigrant who is arguably the most high-profile leader of the immigrants’ rights movement."

The Los Angeles Times called him an "undocumented immigrant." So did the Washington Post, and Newsweek, and CNN, and Politico, and USA Today, and the Dallas Morning News, and McAllen's local paper, The Monitor.