Associated Press: Reporters should stop using phrase ‘illegal immigrant’

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The Associated Press says it is no longer appropriate for reporters to use the term “illegal immigrant.”

The organization announced that its AP Stylebook — the language and grammar guide used by news organizations across the country — will immediately stop approving the phrase.

“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” senior vice president and executive editor Kathleen Carroll said in a post Tuesday on the AP website. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

The move comes as liberal immigration activists have been encouraging news organizations to stop using the term. Most prominently, Jose Antonio Vargas, an illegal immigrant and former Washington Post reporter, testified before Congress on the issue.

“When you inaccurately call me illegal, you not only dehumanize me, you’re offending them,” he said. “No human being is illegal.”

Carroll said the AP decided to stop sanctioning the phrase because “The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life.”

The new style guide will say:

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.


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