The Associated Press has dropped the phrase “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook, a victory for immigrant advocates who argue that the term is biased against the people it describes.
“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” a blog post from AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explains. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”
The move, Carroll writes, is part of a broader shift away from labeling people and towards labeling behavior — for example, referring to people “diagnosed with schizophrenia” instead of “schizophrenics.”
The AP has previously rejected the term “undocumented immigrants,” favored by some pro-reform activists, as inaccurate. Many people in the country illegally have documents, just not the right ones.
Exactly. I mean, is an illegal immigrant with counterfeit government documents really “undocumented”?
So what in the heck are AP writers supposed to say? “Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?” Um, this seems a bit unwieldy, AP. If I want to say: “we should not count illegal immigrants among the uninsured in this country because their lack of insurance is an immigration issue, not a health care issue,” how am I supposed to rewrite that by referring to how the people entered and from where and whether they overstayed a visa?
Basically, the idea is to make the concept so unwieldy that you banish it from the discourse, using control over language to change the terms of the debate.
You know how I’m going to rewrite a sentence like that? I’m not. Because I don’t work for the AP.
While they struggle to make their pieces about political correctness, I will continue to make mine about truth, accuracy, and common-sense English usage.