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‘Illegal immigrant’ no longer acceptable with The Associated Press

Journalists and reporters often turn to The Associated Press Stylebook as the definitive resource for how to write and report news stories, as there are certain procedures and idiosyncrasies that are unique to news reporting versus traditional writing. They also use this book to assess what terms are and are not appropriate.

And based on a decision of AP executives, one term that is no longer considered permissible is "illegal immigrant."

In a blog posting by the AP's vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, the news agency explained why it's decided to cease and desist from using the phrase.

"The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person," said Carroll. "Instead, it tells users that 'illegal' should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally."

She added that at one time, the term was considered to be the best option when referring to the strict definition of describing an individual from overseas without going through the appropriate protocols and procedures. But because the English language is always evolving, there are a variety of other phrases and usages that more adequately defines people who came to the U.S. in an unsanctioned way, such as "unauthorized immigrant" or "undocumented immigrant."

As journalists no longer use the term 'illegal' in reference to a person, this corroborates what many immigration advocates have said, in that no person is illegal. Instead, only actions can be considered unlawful, and have encouraged reporters to make note of that accordingly in their reportage.

Term offends both immigrants and natives
This development comes at a time in which many people in the U.S. – both those who are naturalized citizens as well as people who originate from overseas – believe the term is offensive. Last year, a nationally representative sample of likely voters, said they thought the phrase was unnecessary. In a Fox News poll that surveyed Latinos exclusively, approximately 50 percent of respondents, many of whom send money to their families back home, said they thought the term was disrespectful and hurtful. Less than one-third thought it was an accurate term and thus OK to use.

"Calling people illegal or an illegal immigrant has become normalized even though it's a term that's inaccurate," Monica Novoa, coordinator of the public campaign "Drop the I-Word," told Fox News Latino last year. "It's anti-immigrant, anti-Latino language that's harmful."

The public awareness event is still in effect and many people have signed the pledge at the campaign's website, promising never to use the phrase when referencing actual people.

The Hispanic and Latino community's quest to rid the American lexicon of the phrase has been a long time coming. It's also had its representation in the world of journalism. Earlier this year, Washington Post reporter Antonio Vargas testified in front of a legislative panel in the U.S. Senate.

"When you inaccurately call me illegal, you not only dehumanize me, you're offending them," said Vargas. "No human being is illegal."

Several lawmakers have indicated that they will make it their personal mission to make the terms use extinct. According to ABC News, legislators like Rep John Conyers of Michigan and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois are among the public officials who've taken the pledge.

Proponents of banning the term are hopeful that other major news sources, such as the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, will follow the AP's lead and prohibit the phrase from being used in their copy.

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