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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AP Style Guide Drops "Illegal Immigrant"

Posted by on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 12:49 PM

The Associated Press, the keepers of the style guide that dominates journalistic standards, announced today that its editors no longer sanction the use of the term "illegal immigrant." Below is an excerpt from the revised entry in the AP

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.

It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it's really not. Labeling a person as an "illegal" serves to dehumanize them eyes of the reader. There's a great episode of Slate's podcast Lexicon Valley that addresses the topic in depth. Well worth listening.

So yeah, this is a big deal. And a big step toward a more rational immigration debate.

Also of note, especially in the context of the debate over both our state and federal Dream Acts, is the following extra bit of instruction from AP's editors: "People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally." Because, you know, to do so would be to imply that the children were culpable for an act over which they had zero control.


Comments (16) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Actually, immigration courts do not access culpability or intent in the way that criminal courts do, but why cloud the issue with fact?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on April 2, 2013 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Lew Siffer 2
Illegal immigrants should just be refered to as "criminals."
Posted by Lew Siffer on April 2, 2013 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Pick1 4
This change is elevating discourse all over the place. Loved the following tweet:

"Screw them too. Kill anyone who invades OUR LAND. They ARE ILLEGALS. You pussies need to go with them #VivaLaRazaBlanca"

Made by someone with the twitter handle "Big Daddy N5CAR"
Posted by Pick1 on April 2, 2013 at 1:43 PM · Report this
@2 Except that most illegal aliens aren't criminals. They're administratively removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, but that's not the same thing. Crimes are punishable by imprisonment, not deportation.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on April 2, 2013 at 1:55 PM · Report this
gttrgst 6
In AP's story about Rep. Don Young's apology the other day I noted this:

"Wetbacks" often refers to Mexican migrants who have entered the country illegally, and Hispanics consider the word, which can be used to disparage all Hispanics, to be highly pejorative.

And I wondered why the writer would think that only Hispanics consider the word to be highly perjorative.
Posted by gttrgst on April 2, 2013 at 2:03 PM · Report this
I think illegal alien goes too far, but illegal immigrant is fine. they are people breaking the law by being in the county and no i dont just mean hispanics, whites can be illegal immigrants too.
Posted by Seattle14 on April 2, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this
Space Sausage 8
no term will exceed Wetback is its poetry & conciseness.
Posted by Space Sausage on April 2, 2013 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Sam Levine 9
A skater is someone that skates. A dancer is someone that dances. The fact that current laws make people feel uncomfortable should not lead us to warp the language, rather to address the laws in the first place.
Posted by Sam Levine on April 2, 2013 at 2:24 PM · Report this
I think most newspapers were way ahead of AP on this one.
Posted by bigyaz on April 2, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
People who don't know immigrants have know idea how convoluted the law is. Someone's immigration status is not always black and white. I have friends and in-laws who depending where they are at in the system are "legal" one day and "illegal" the next. This misconception is right up there with the one about "anchor babies". Thousands of parents of US citizens get deported every year.
Posted by wl on April 2, 2013 at 3:05 PM · Report this
Can someone clarify why the AP is also not allowing "undocumented immigrant"? I thought that was an okay phrase?
Posted by wxPDX on April 2, 2013 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 13
I would rather have Mexicans living here than then East Coasties.

We should be building a wall on the eastern Montana border and checking IDs in airports, round em up and ship em home.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on April 2, 2013 at 3:24 PM · Report this
Ditto @12. I read the whole thing and thought, okay what are you supposed to say? "living in a country illegally" is a mouthful and "without legal permission" would mean illegally.

A little too PC, I think.
Posted by westello on April 2, 2013 at 4:43 PM · Report this
GeneStoner 15

Borders, Language and Culture is all that peacefully holds any country together. If you disorganize any of these, you will soon see changes in that nation.

Posted by GeneStoner on April 2, 2013 at 11:19 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 16
Jay Leno had the best suggestion. Just call them "undocumented Democrats."
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on April 3, 2013 at 5:09 AM · Report this

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