Sign of the times: Phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ now passe

WASHINGTON – Illegal immigrants are no more.

At least according to the Associated Press Stylebook, which is a grammar, word usage and spelling bible for journalists.

The Associated Press announced Tuesday that the term “illegal immigrants” was no longer accurate, nor acceptable for use in the wire service’s stories.

Instead, reporters are to say a person entered the country illegally or without legal permission and are to include details describing from where a person entered the country illegally and how – did they overstay a visa or cross the border. The word “illegal” should describe only an action, not an individual, the AP says.

“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 AP says in its blog.

The move away from the term “illegal immigrant” follows efforts to remove labels from the Stylebook. For example, reporters are to say someone was “diagnosed with schizophrenia” instead of using the word schizophrenic.

The goal is to label behavior, not the person, the AP says.

Here is the full, revised entry:

Illegal immigration – Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. 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. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

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