Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Some good news for immigrants this week.
Two years ago the Society of Professional Journalists passed a resolution urging all journalists to stop using the term "Illegal immigrant." The Associated Press finally announced today it would stop using this term too. Other organizations like the NY Times still are using the term, though they are said to be reviewing the policy now.
Here is part of the AP's explanation: 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.
Why did we make the change? The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)
So how should AP reporters write about these immigrants? Here's what the AP manual now says on the topic: 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.
I never liked these words, they alienated and dehumanized the subjects which is what they were intended to do. We are talking about people, not aliens from the outer dimension an saying that a person is illegal is just plain wrong. I am glad these phrases will soon be gone from the press.

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