The Associated Press announced on Tuesday they will no longer recommend journalists use the term illegal immigrant when referring to immigrants in the United States without legal permission.
The announcement comes more than three years after Colorlines.com launched The Drop the I-Word campaign that called on media outlets to stop using the term “illegal immigrant” because it is a racially charged slur that confuses the immigration debate and fuels violence.
“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,” wrote AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll on the organization’s blog.
“It’s great to see the Associated Press stand up for responsible journalistic standards. The style guide is the last word on journalistic practice so it’s particularly important for the AP to set this standard,” said Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research and publisher of Colorlines.com. “This should put the debate to rest.”
The updated AP Style Guide entry is being added immediately to the AP Stylebook Online and Manual de Estilo Online de la AP, the new Spanish-language Stylebook. It reads 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.
The Drop the I-Word campaign argued journalists have professional and ethical standards to uphold and that term illegal is not legally or journalistically accurate and it confuses debate.
Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times’ public editor announced Monday afternoon her organization is also working on revising its usage of the term “illegal immigrant.”
On “illegal immigrants”: I’m told that @nytimes is also working on revisions to its usage guidelines to “provide more nuance and options.”— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) April 2, 2013