The Associated Press announced its decision Tuesday to drop the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant” from its journalism style-guide.
“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” explained Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll in a blog post. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”
The news-gathering organization, which provides reports and content to hundreds of media outlets around the world, said the decision came after discussions with “many people from many walks of life” on the hot-button topic.
Carroll said they wrestled with the appropriate naming convention internally: “Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as ‘undocumented,’ despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.”
Some argue that use of the word “illegal” carries a negative connotation and suggests criminality.
The announcement from AP came as part of a larger focus on immigration reform across the nation. Latinos played a major role in the 2012 election and the bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” appears to be close to a sweeping deal on immigration reform. In light of these cultural changes, many news organizations, including msnbc, have been opting to use the phrase ”undocumented immigrants or workers” instead to reflect the shift in the public discourse.
Some “I-word” holdouts remain on Capitol Hill. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he plans to keep using the word “illegal” to refer to undocumented immigrants–despite being asked at a Phoenix town hall meeting to stop.
“Someone who crosses our borders illegally is here illegally,” McCain said. “You can call it whatever you want to, but it’s illegal. I think there’s a big difference between someone who does something that’s illegal and someone who’s undocumented. I’ll continue to call it illegal.”