AP drops use of phrase “illegal immigrant” | St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Applauds the Move

Along with a new immigration reform bill that is expected to pass into law by the end of the year, the media is also changing their perspective on immigrants and the terms they use to identify them. The Associated Press, which is the world’s largest news-gathering outlet in the world, has announced they will no longer be using the term “Illegal immigrant” in their publications.

What has prompted the change

The senior vice president and executive editor Kathleen Carroll explained the decision is a part of the company’s attempt to rid their stylebook of labels. “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,” Carroll wrote. The decision comes after years of controversy over the term which is seen as offensive and dehumanizing to those it describes.

Last year, America’s top college newspapers and TV networks including ABC, NBC and CNN vowed to stop using the term as nearly half of Latino voters polled in a survey found the term offensive. Linguists have come together to pressure media companies to drop the term calling it “neither neutral nor accurate.” Despite promises to restrict the usage of “illegal immigrant”, critics of the term say that many newsrooms continue to classify people as “illegal.”

How news editors are promoting change

AP Stylebook editors decided to sit down with groups who were concerned over the entry of the term in recent years and discussed the options and changes that need to be made. Kathleen Carroll wrote in her blog post that the AP prefers that behavior rather than people are labeled “And that discussion about labeling people, instead of behavior, led us back to ‘illegal immigrant’ again. We concluded that to be consistent, we needed to change our guidance,” Carroll wrote. “So we have.” The news comes as a victory to many columnists who have spoken out against the term before and now that the “big fish” in the journalistic debate has decided to drop the term, more media sources may follow suit. For more than 1,400, U.S. newspapers that makeup the Associates Press cooperative, the next step will be to get major U.S. companies to drop the terms.

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