The Associated Press will
stop using the term
The Associated Press, the world’s largest news-gathering outlet, no longer approves of the term “illegal immigrant” – which is to say that nearly every newspaper in America will no longer be using the expression.
In a blog post, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll claimed that the decision was part of the company’s on-going attempt to stop labeling people, rather than the behavior : “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.”
Though, as Carroll goes on to explain, the evolution of the English language will almost surely find a reasonable and non-offensive term that won’t be seven words long. ABC, NBC, CNN, and others, have already tried to eliminate the term. Coming up with a term that satisfies the aggrieved has been difficult. Some activists have advocated for terms like “undocumented migrants” or “unauthorized migrants.” Others like “economic refugee.” Or even “would be Americans.”
Ill***l Al**n, the once-used phrase for a Person Residing in the United States Without Permission, has long fallen into disfavor among mainstream media outlets, because, as the argument goes, humans can’t be illegal and the word “alien” dehumanizes people (though it’s the legal phrase for “any person not a citizen or national of the United States”). But mostly, it’s racist. A piece in the National Review last year that lays out the fight over the terminology:
Efforts to change the parlance of the immigration debate are not new. In 2010 the Diversity Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists called on journalists nationwide to replace illegal immigrant and illegal alien with undocumented worker or undocumented immigrant, arguing that the usual terms are “offensive” to Latinos.
That same year, the Applied Research Center, a self-described “racial justice think tank,” launched its Drop the I-Word (DTIW) campaign, calling on media outlets and elected officials to “uphold reason, due process, and responsible speech by dropping the i-word.” Illegals, the think tank contends, “is a racially charged slur used to dehumanize and discriminate against immigrants and people of color regardless of migratory status.”
The Associated Press does not favor “undocumented” wither because it is not precise. After all, a “person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.” So true.
Residing on the more liberal side of this particular debate, I find AP’s contention that it seeks more precision laughable. Take a look at AP’s economic coverage for starters. If AP was interested in precision why does it refer to slowdowns in future government spending as “cuts? Why is the city of “Jerusalem” called “Israel’s self-declared capital” rather than its capital like every other nation? Because AP has a desire to avoid offending the sensitivities of certain people – and that’s undoubtedly its right. But please, the linguistics cover story is ridiculous.
Here is the new entry in the AP Stylebook:
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.
Follow David Harsanyi @davidharsanyi.