This week, the Associated Press (AP) announced that the phrase “illegal immigrant” is no longer proper style for journalists following AP’s widely used style guide. How influential is that guide? More than 2 million copies have been sold since the guide was first developed in the 1950s. The guide—including its regular updates—is as influential among writers and editors as the Merriam-Webster dictionary. (That includes editors at ReadTheSpirit and OurValues, who consult both the AP guide and Webster’s.)
My questions today:
Are you glad to see “illegal immigrant” go?
Or, would you prefer to keep it?
The AP news is a timely cap for our week exploring immigration reform: We’ve discussed how most people think the current immigration system is broken and favor a path to citizenship, the ancient tradition of welcoming the stranger, the fact that America remains the Number One preferred destination for immigrants, and that each of us has a family immigration story. Today, we consider this new shift in language.
Here is what AP now says in its style manual:
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.”
To learn more about the perspectives of AP executives, here is a statement by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. Of course, not everyone agrees with the change. Some politicians, like John McCain, have said that they will stick with “illegal immigrant.” Generally, Republicans have preferred the phrase. Some media commentators have taken issue, including Jay Leno who joked about the politically loaded nature of the change.
Today, I want to know your reaction:
Is abolishing “illegal immigrant” an improvement?
Do you prefer alternatives?
Does immigration reform require language reform?