Associated Press drops ‘illegal immigrant’ from stylebook

Liz Goodwin
The Ticket

The Associated Press announced today that it will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant" to describe people who are living in the country illegally.

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

The change comes after a campaign from immigrant activists, led by journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, for news organizations and politicians to stop using "illegal" to describe immigrants. They argue the term gives the impression that immigrants have broken criminal law, when some immigration infractions—including overstaying a visa—are only civil violations.

Advocates prefer the term "undocumented," but the AP says it will not use that word because it is imprecise. ("A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence," Carroll wrote.)

The change comes as a major immigration reform bill, which could legalize millions of immigrants living in the U.S., is expected to be unveiled by a bipartisan group of senators.

The AP Stylebook is widely used by most news organizations in the U.S. and is considered the industry's foremost guide for style and word usage. Yahoo News generally follows the AP Stylebook.