The Associated Press will no longer use the term illegal immigrant in its news stories.
The AP's executive editor was quoted in a blog posted by the news organization Tuesday saying that "illegal" should only be used to describe an action, not a person.
So, instead of illegal immigrant, the Associated Press will opt for something like "living in the country illegally." Illegal immigration is still acceptable.
The change is part of an effort to rid AP's copy of labels. A noble cause? Perhaps. But what about those labels that fit, avoid wordiness and are, in fact, the best way to describe someone?
For instance, the AP is also urging its writers not to refer to people as schizophrenic but instead say "diagnosed with schizophrenia."
Too much? Maybe. But as the AP executive editor noted in her comments, the language continues to evolve, and the discussion about wording that is appropriate, accurate and telling will continue as well.
I've seen reader comments, some fairly fierce, both for and against the change. That tells me that the words we use, and how we use them, matter to people.
What do you think? Cast a vote in our poll.
Here's the complete entry from the AP Stylebook:
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.