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AP's ban on the term 'illegal immigrant' sparks fierce debate

April 02, 2013|By A Times Staff Writer
  • An immigration citizenship ceremony
An immigration citizenship ceremony (Los Angeles Times )

There has long been debate about the term "illegal immigrant."

Some immigrant activists believe the term unfairly demonizes undocumented immigrants, though the term is still commonly used by news organizations.

On Tuesday, however, one of the world's biggest news organizations said it would stop using "illegal immigrants."

In a blog post, Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained:

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.

Why did we make the change?

The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (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.)

The new AP policy notes that "illegal" refers to the action, not the person. "Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission," the AP wrote.

Some immigrants rights activists cheered AP's move and demanded other news organization take similar action.

"You're next, , , , . No human being is illegal," wrote Jose Antonio Vargas of the group Define America on Twitter.

Conservative writer Jonah Goldberg took a different view.

"Orwell weeps," he wrote on Twitter. "New AP stylebook ban on "illegal immigrant" probably couldn't be announced yesterday on account of April Fool's."

What do you think? Share your view below.

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