Associated Press drops term 'illegal immigrant' from stylebook

PHOENIX - The Associated Press is dropping the term "illegal immigrant" from their stylebook, citing a concern about the use of labels to describe people instead of behavior.

As the largest news organization in the world, the move is expected to have far-reaching implications for how all of us see the illegal immigration debate described in newspapers, broadcasts and across digital print.

The changed was announced Tuesday by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll.

"The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person," Carroll wrote in a blog entry on the AP's website. "Instead, it tells users that 'illegal' should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally."

Here's how the updated entry describing "illegal immigrant" now reads:

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.

While rolling out today's change, the AP has also kept the door open to "more evolution" down the road.

"Change is a part of AP Style because the English language is constantly evolving, enriched by new words, phrases and uses," Carroll wrote in her blog entry. "Our goal always is to use the most precise and accurate words so that the meaning is clear to any reader anywhere."

The "illegal immigrant" change is effective immediately, and will appear in all future print editions of the AP Stylebook, Carroll said.

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