‘Illegal Immigrant’ Banished From AP Stylebook
The news wire service says it’s removing ‘labels’ as critics seethe
By STEVEN NELSON
The Associated Press decreed Tuesday afternoon that the term “illegal immigrant” is no longer appropriate to describe people who reside in the United States without legal permission.
An update the AP’s influential stylebook was blasted out in an email to subscribers of the guide’s online version, saying in part, “Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant.”
A blog post the AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, elaborated that the news organization “had in other areas been ridding the Stylebook of labels” and ultimately decided it was best to only label specific behaviors as illegal.
Debate over the term is highly political. Opponents of illegal immigration fear softening the language is a move to subtly shift the policy debate over immigration reform away from enforcing current immigration laws.
Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio is one of the nation’s foremost anti-illegal immigration hawks. Arpaio told U.S. News Wednesday, “If a person enters the United States illegally, that’s how we should refer to their status and not try to soften the crime of entering illegally by calling it something else.”
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration,told the Los Angeles Times that the AP’s “Big Brother” style update was “political correctness on steroids.” Gheen told the Times his group will begin using the term “illegal invader.” On Tuesday evening late-night TV host Jay Leno joked that he would use the term “undocumented Democrats.”
The AP previously defended its use of the term “illegal immigrant.”
AP Deputy Managing Editor Tom Kent wrote in an October 2012 memo excerpted by the Poynter Institute: “Terms like ‘undocumented’ and ‘unauthorized’ can make a person’s illegal presence in the country appear to be a matter of minor paperwork. Many illegal immigrants aren’t “undocumented” at all; they may have a birth certificate and passport from their home country, plus a U.S. driver’s license, Social Security card or school ID. What they lack is the fundamental right to be in the United States.”
Following the AP’s Tuesday announcement, the public editor of The New York Times disclosed that it too was preparing to announce a revision this week to its stylebook entry for the term “illegal immigrant.” That change “will probably be more incremental” and introduce a more nuanced offering of terminology, rather than an outright ban on the term, according to The Times.
The Associated Press Revises Another Politically Charged Term
Stylebook entry for ‘Islamist’ revised two days after ‘illegal immigrant’ dropped
By STEVEN NELSON
April 4, 2013 RSS Feed Print
Following on the heels of the Tuesday decision by The Associated Press to discontinue use of the term “illegal immigrant,” the news agency on Thursday revised its stylebook entry for another politically charged term.
The term “Islamist,” the AP clarified in a Thursday afternoon alert to online stylebook subscribers, should not be used as “a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals.”
[DEFIANT: Some Lawmakers Will Still Say ‘Illegal Immigrant’]
“Islamist” is frequently used as a label for conservative Islamic political movements, particularly Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the group’s Palestinian offshoot. It generally carries a negative connotation.
The AP first added the term to its stylebook in 2012. The definition initially read:
Supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an American advocacy group sometimes labeled “Islamist” by critics, previously lobbied for the AP to drop the term. In a January op-ed CAIR’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, wrote the term “has become shorthand for ‘Muslims we don’t like'” and “is currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context.”
As of Thursday’s update, the AP definition reads:
An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.
Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.
CAIR praised the AP’s update. “We believe this revision is a step in the right direction and will result in fewer negative generalizations in coverage of issues related to Islam and Muslims,” Hooper said. “The key issue with the term ‘Islamist’ is not its continued use; the issue is its use almost exclusively as an ill-defined pejorative.”
The AP’s decision to discontinue “illegal immigrant” was part of an ongoing process of “ridding the Stylebook of labels,” the organization’s senior vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, said in a blog post. It was immediately criticized by opponents of illegal immigration, including Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who told U.S. News he objected to efforts “to soften the crime of entering illegally.”
Update (04/05/13): This article has been updated with a statement from Ibrahim Hooper.