One of the world’s leading wire services, the Associated Press, has announced it will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant.” The term illegal immigrant is considered derogatory by many as referring to a person rather than an act.
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.
Under the new guidelines there is no new term or label for those who have entered the country illegally.
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.
Perhaps this change could lead to a more empathetic attitude towards immigrants. If anything, it should at least stop the practice of labeling immigrants as illegal people in mainstream publications, which typically follow the AP’s lead in style and often simply republish wire stories in full. Other terms such as “undocumented immigrant” or “undocumented workers” have been offered but the AP has rejected those as well.