Tell the Associated Press that no human being is “illegal”

I’ve written before about efforts led by the Applied Research Center to have people, especially journalists, stop calling undocumented immigrants “illegal.” One of the main influences on the language that journalists use is the Associated Press Style Book.

I posted a tweet from them in July 2010 post illustrating their position on the issue:

Tweet from AP Style Book that reads "Illegal immigrant is the preferred term for someone who has entered the country illegally. Do not use an illegal."

The immigration debate in this country has become laden with hatred and zenophobia. A person’s actions may go against the law, but they themselves are never illegal. This video from the Drop the I-Word campaign illustrates exactly how language like “illegal” promotes hate:

Transcript here.

According to ARC and Colorlines, the AP Stylebook updated their edition last week, and left this policy intact. But they are already looking toward their next edition, and now is the time to ask them to Drop the I-Word.

Directions for taking action are here. The deadline is today, so do your part to remove this harmful language from our media.

Join the Conversation

  • Ellen

    I just wanted to let you know that the proper word is “xenophobia”.

  • cliff arroyo

    Would you prefer ” criminal ” ? Works for me. “Criminal immigration has increased.” “Four criminal immigrants were detained.”

    Technically a person who has crossed a national border in violation of the relevant laws has broken the law and ways of referring to them need to take that into account.

    I’m not in favor of any terminology that denies the agency of a person who crosses a border in violation of the law (for whatever reason).

    I have a lot of sympathy for the children who are in legal limbo because of their parents’ actions but I’m not in favor of pretending the parents are simply “undocumented” (which implies they are in no way to blame for their childrens’ problems). I’m all in favor of something being done to address their situation.

    FTR: I live outside the US (and have for many years). There was even a relatively short time where my stay was not %100 legally kosher (due to massive political changes that took several years to get sorted out in the legal system). As soon as the legal system did stabilize I legalized my stay. So I don’t think I’m especially xenophobic or anything.

    But if your real goal is Schengenize the US-Mexican border then at least have the courage of your convictions to say so.