Posted By Bianca Olvera Lopez
On Tuesday, The Associated Press announced ‘Illegal Immigrant’ would be eliminated from the AP Stylebook, stating: “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.” The director of media relations Paul Colford, posted a blog entry, ‘Illegal Immigrant No More,’ that further explains the AP’s decision to make the changes.
The entry will read as follows:
Illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.
Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.
Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.
Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?
People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.
I agree with the changes, but what are your thoughts? Do you think journalists should stay away from phrases that can be understood as labels? Do you think this will affect other terms or phrases?
Back in October 2012, New York Times’ Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, argued the phrase “illegal immigrant” is clear and accurate in an entry titled Readers Won’t Benefit if Times Bans the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant.’ But on Tuesday, Sullivan shared The Times, Too, Is Reconsidering the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant,’ and said “So many people find it offensive to refer to a person with an adjective like “illegal” that I now favor the use of “undocumented” or “unauthorized” as alternatives.” Sounds like progress, but will the changes affect our readers? Will they adapt quickly and will they be comfortable with the changes? Do you prefer “undocumented” or “unauthorized” over “illegal immigrant?”