Associated Press Changes ‘Illegal Immigrant’ Terminology

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.


No doubt, one of the most emotionally and politically charged phrases in our national dialogue these days is “illegal immigrant.”

Now, one of the world’s leading journalistic organizations is no longer using that term.

At home you probably encounter the Associated Press most often when you see it under a byline in the paper.

For those in the news business, the Associated Press prints a stylebook, the gold-standard guide for what journalists do with the words they use to report. It’s that stylebook that’s undergoing revisions.

It’s a book that tells a journalist everything,  like that daylight saving time has no “s” and no hyphen and that words ending in “ch” like church become plural with an “es,” except monarchs, – just an “s” there.

Until Tuesday, “illegal immigrant” has been one of the terms listed and defined in the reporter’s bible.

The A.P. stylebook’s senior vice president and executive editor,  Kathleen Carroll,  said that the word “illegal” should only define an action,  a behavior and  not be used to label a person.

FOX40 showed people the old term and an A.P.-approved replacement, “a person entering a country illegally.”

The old term was found to be more offensive and as for the new phrase…

“It’s labeling them as a person, humanizing them,” said Melinda Dyke.

Victor San Cristobal immigrated to the U.S.  legally from Chile. He found A.P.’s old standard more offensive.

With so many people desperate to improve their circumstances with a new life in America, he says the new phrase is better.

“Whichever we can put so they, [making] them feel close to a person is the best way to refer to them,” said San Cristobal.

That may be, but with so much angst in the immigration battle, Dyke isn’t sure semantics will be enough to elevate the debate.

“I think that people whole feel strongly against them will still call them that. Everyone still has their own opinion about it. I don’t think rephrasing it will do much,” she said.

As far as our policy at FOX40, News Director Brandon Mercer said, “our procedures require staff to refer to people with appropriate respect.  We take into account the two or three sides of every story and present a fair and balanced perspective.  If a person`s immigration status is important to viewers, we will refer to it in the clearest way possible.”


Don't miss

More Featured

Latest News

More News