Tell the Associated Press to Drop the I-Word

The Associated Press is looking ahead to the 2012 edition of the AP Stylebook and would like to hear from readers. Deadline for submissions is Tuesday, Nov. 15.

By S. Leigh Thompson Nov 11, 2011

Although the Associated Press updated its stylebook last week, they still insist on using the i-word to define people. While many reporters and editors are re-evaluating how they describe undocumented immigrants in a way that does not dehumanize them or compromise constitutionality, accuracy and professional journalistic ethics, the change from the AP still falls short.

But with your help, we can change that.

The Associated Press is looking ahead to the 2012 edition of the AP Stylebook and would like to hear from readers. This is the perfect time to tell the AP to drop the i-word and to let them know "illegal immigrant" is dehumanizing, racially charged, inaccurate, not legal terminology and not conducive to understanding the immigration debate.

CLICK HERE NOW TO TAKE ACTION and let them know that use of the i-word is indefensible. Deadline for submissions is Tuesday, Nov. 15. Sample text to use is below.

When you’ve sent your submission you will be sent a confirmation email. Be sure to follow through and click on the link within the email to complete the action!

Sample text:

Dear AP Stylebook editors,

Even back in the 70s, the Carter administration did not use the terms "illegal immigrant" or "illegal alien." And now, Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Sotomayor don’t use the terms. "Illegal immigrant," oversimplifies the complexities of immigration. Using the word "illegal" to describe an immigrant puts journalists in the position of being judge and jury. It casts all immigration cases as black and white and leaves little room for this most complicated law’s nuances. 

Here is an example of a different policy: Never use the shorthand "illegals" as a noun. Do not use the terms "alien," "criminal alien," "illegal immigrant," "illegal worker," or related terms except in quoted matter; the terms are pejorative, incorrect and biased. Do not use the slur "anchor baby" to refer to a child of immigrants. Use accurate and nuanced descriptors that are specific to the stories of the people you are writing about. Preferred terms include:

    • Immigrant
    • Undocumented immigrant
    • Unauthorized immigrant
    • Immigrant without papers
    • Immigrants entering without inspection
    • Immigrant seeking status
    • Citizen child of undocumented immigrants
    • It is acceptable to use migrant or foreign national; when possible use a specific reference to nationality (e.g.: Briton, Cambodian, Canadian, Jamaican, Mexican, Pakistani).

The Society of Professional Journalists recently passed a resolution for members to stop using "illegal alien" and to re-evaluate use of "illegal immigrant" which the SPJ’s diversity committee advises against using because it is unconstitutional, offensive and dehumanizing to the people it describes. Plus, several papers have already dropped the i-word, including: The Miami Herald, The San Antonio Express News, New Haven Register, Middletown Press and The Register Citizen.