‘Illegal Immigrant’ No More

Paul Colford, AP, April 2, 2013

The AP Stylebook today is making some changes in how we describe people living in a country illegally.

Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explains the thinking behind the decision:

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

Why did we make the change?

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.)

Those discussions continued even after AP affirmed “illegal immigrant” as the best use, for two reasons.

A number of people felt that “illegal immigrant” was the best choice at the time. They also believed the always-evolving English language might soon yield a different choice and we should stay in the conversation.

Also, we had in other areas been ridding the Stylebook of labels. The new section on mental health issues argues for using credibly sourced diagnoses instead of labels. Saying someone was “diagnosed with schizophrenia” instead of schizophrenic, for example.

And that discussion about labeling people, instead of behavior, led us back to “illegal immigrant” again.

We concluded that to be consistent, we needed to change our guidance.

So we have.

Is this the best way to describe someone in a country without permission? We believe that it is for now. We also believe more evolution is likely down the road.

Will the new guidance make it harder for writers? Perhaps just a bit at first. But while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.

I suspect now we will hear from some language lovers who will find other labels in the AP Stylebook. We welcome that engagement. Get in touch at [email protected]  or, if you are an AP Stylebook Online subscriber, through the “Ask the Editor” page.

Change is a part of AP Style because the English language is constantly evolving, enriched by new words, phrases and uses. Our goal always is to use the most precise and accurate words so that the meaning is clear to any reader anywhere.

The updated entry is being added immediately to the AP Stylebook Online and Manual de Estilo Online de la AP, the new Spanish-language Stylebook. It also will appear in the new print edition and Stylebook Mobile, coming out later in the spring. It reads as follows:

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 inor entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alienan illegalillegals or undocumented.

Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.

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  • LastBastionOfHope

    In other news gang members now must be referred to as “misunderstood youth” and robbers must be referred to as “nice people who want things they can’t afford”.

    • Svigor

      Criminal is the word they’re looking for. Criminal immigrants. Criminal infiltrators. Etc.

  • Puggg

    Okay, if no person is illegal, then no gun is illegal, no firearm magazine is illegal, no soda cup is illegal, no tobacco product is illegal.

    • This means a very large soda cup full of sugary soda in New York City is an undocumented serving size.

    • No “illegal drugs” either, just “unapproved mood enhancers”.

      • Mark

        And “undocumented pharmacist” for a drug dealer.

  • a multiracial individual

    I do not wish to have new residents in this country who entered ILLEGALLY…

    Fine, they are not “illegal immigrants.” They are, “immigrants who entered illegally.”

    When liberals plays this stupid semantics game it really makes me laugh. Whenever you cook up new terminology it is only a matter of time before the new terms become offensive. Perhaps, it is not the term, it is the people behind the term.

    • Felix_M

      If George Washington himself declared they were fellow citizens, they would never be my fellow citizens. I will never accept this amnestied band of crookes as more than 2nd class and as McCitizens.

      • The__Bobster

        I don’t accept the ones from 1986 either. Most of them used fraudulent documents to get amnestied.

        • Felix_M

          Agreed. That was the start of all this nonsense, and if there’s a 2nd amnesty, there WILL be a 3rd, and maybe a 4th if we haven’t already ended as a nation by then.

          • kjh64

            No, if this “immigration reform” aka amnesty passes, this will end America as a first world nation unless something drastic happens. After that, Mexicans won’t want to come because Mexico will be better off.

        • I don’t accept the ones that entered after 1965. You guess why.

    • concernedcollegekid

      I should’ve read your comment before I posted. We had the exact same reaction to this, lol.

  • Felix_M

    F*** AP. Rather than convincing others to be more “sensitive,” they’re only further convincing us that they’re a bunch of crazy left-wingers with little credibility.

  • bigone4u

    I was scolded, reamed out, and made persona non grata for using the term illegal immigrant many years ago when a student reported me to my university’s administration. So much for academic freedom when it’s not PC. The AP is just catching up with where universities were back in the day. BTW, I was instructed to use the phrase undocumented worker. Worker my ***. Undocumented welfare parasite is just as likely.

    • Felix_M

      The PC’ers are the new Nazis. Sad that more people haven’t figured it out yet.

      • IstvanIN

        Nazis, we should be so lucky, these people are commies in the Lenin/Trotsky/Stalin mode.

        • NYB

          ‘Worker’ is Marxist-speak, as in worker-proletariat. ‘Workers of the world, unite’. It is a dead giveaway of campus leftism.

      • paul

        No, Nazis were quite open and honest that they were for white people. I’m not sure where you get the PC connection.

        • Svigor

          Germans, yeah. Whites? Not so much.

    • The__Bobster

      I would drill you a new one, too. The correct term is “illegal alien”. Immigrants have to have permission to enter the country and they also have documents.

      • bigone4u

        Actually, I used illegal alien too but the administrators never caught me using that one.

      • StillModerated

        How about disgusting, smelly foreigners?

    • NeanderthalDNA

      Quack quack quack. Quack out that duckspeak, boy! The people’s democratic totalitarian thought militia are watching you.

      You apparently are not thinking correctly. You must be reeducated or destroyed as an enemy of the oppressed non-white citizenry of the People’s Democratic Republic of Diversica.

    • Jefferson

      When it comes to speech that they do not agree with, left wingers are about as pro-free speech as Kim Jung Un.

      If the liberal elite who run this country had the power to do so, they would treat racially aware White people in this country the same way that Kim Jung Un treats his own people.

      They would starve us to death and kill us if we criticized their ideology.

    • liberalsuck

      I can call them a lot worse than ‘illegal immigrant.’ Just saying!

    • “So much for academic freedom…” When people have to ASK for freedom – they are not free.

  • khesanh67-68

    AP: “Illegal” should describe only an action,
    That’s what it does, it descibes the “act[s]” of entering, residing, and working here as illegal. That would make such a person commiting these illegal acts an illegal alien.

    • Svigor

      Well, they have a point that “illegal immigrant” isn’t the best stylistic choice, but something tells me they won’t be going with a proper substitute:

      Criminal immigrants, criminal aliens, criminal infiltrators…

  • Robert Binion

    I hereby declare Nero “celestial fiddler.”

  • Grim Jim

    Why not? Aren’t violent black criminals already called “teens” and “youth”?

    If this doesn’t worry even the lily livered liberals who claim they stand for free speech and accuracy in the media nothing will shock them in what will come in a few more steps.

    Yuri Bezmenov summed it all up very well in “Deception was My Job”

    Right now, white Christian heterosexual males are public enemy #1, they turn non-whites like Zimmerman white when it serves their purpose and no one complains, not in a way that changes anything.

  • IstvanIN

    The correct term is “invader”. Thank you.

  • The__Bobster

    Just remember that in the same stylebook, you are directed to hide the race of Bantu criminals whenever possible.

  • TheCogitator

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter, only what things are.

    What matters is what something is, not what it is called. AP can torture the language however they wish, but it doesn’t change the fact, that people are criminals by entering this country in violation of our laws. “Illegal immigrant” seems to do a good job of describing that.

    • Svigor

      Perception matters. Con men and outlaws change their names on a constant basis.

  • Xanthippe2

    “’Illegal’ should describe only an action, not a person.” Quite true. A person is a criminal.

    • Svigor

      Yep. Well, sort of. It is technically possible, if not at all politically feasible, to outlaw persons or groups. But yes, “criminal” is the substitute they’re groping for.

  • dd121

    So what are we supposed to call them, “misplaced vacationers”?

  • sbuffalonative

    So they caved to the “no person is illegal” lobby.
    If you commit murder, you’re a murderer. If you’re not a citizen and you enter the country unlawfully, you’re an illegal alien.

  • I agree we should drop the term illegal alien. Change “illegal alien” to “criminal alien trespasser.”

    • David Ashton


    • jane johnson

      Nice! You beat me to it.

    • Bill

      Invader suits me, along with invasion describing their actions. You do know what nations do to invaders, right? I can live with that terminology AND that resultant action.

    • MikeS

      Change “illegal alien” to “recently deceased.”

      • Svigor

        Can’t you do that for us?

        • MikeS

          Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.

      • blight14

        Bravo, what a grand idea……………

    • Svigor

      I really like the Israeli construction, “illegal infiltrator.” Replace “illegal” with a more appropriate term, and we get the very appropriate “criminal infiltrator.”

  • MekongDelta69

    The left has been slowly redefining the English language for 50 years. (You don’t want me to list all the old terms and their equivalent, leftist new terms in this post – I’d run out of room.)

    Bottom line – use whatever damn language you like, whenever you like, wherever you like.

    Do NOT let the left win.

  • concernedcollegekid

    Any term used to describe a badly-behaving group is eventually going to become “offensive” if the group’s behavior fails to improve. People associate a term for a group with the behavior of the group. Cooking up new terms just creates a stupid cycle where idiotic liberals pretend the term ITSELF caused the bad behavior… I bet within a decade, the term “undocumented immigrant” will be offensive and liberals will be talking about how crippling and damaging it is to someone to call them “undocumented”… lol.

    • Svigor

      CORRECT. Words take on the associations of the things they designate. Which is why they keep changing the word for blacks.

  • A tad bit of subtle irony considering that my stylebook no longer allows me to use the AP and news, journalism, or impartial facts in the same sentence. The irony comes when you factor in the way White Supremacist can be bandied around without a speck of “Supremacist” beliefs, but something that is 100% ILLEGAL shall not be referred to as ILLEGAL and needs to be treaded lightly. Fine, Wetbacks it is.

  • ms_anthro

    How about we just call them what they are? “Hostile foreign invaders.” Or if that’s too wordy, “criminals.”

  • guest

    If you migrate to a country illegally, that makes you an illegal immigrant. There’s really no polite way to describe it, no matter what those PC elitists want to believe. What’s next? Is the word “criminal” which describes someone who commits crimes considered offensive as well?

  • alex

    Let’s call a bank robbery undocumented financial transaction

  • White people have created some of the most beautiful and sophisticated languages on earth. We should have a poll and decide on a new label to give these formerly-known-as-illegals.

    • Svigor

      Better yet, let’s put our heads together and come up with a new word for formerly-known-as-journalists. “Whores” is taken, but will do in a pinch I guess.

  • KingKenton

    April 4th, 2013
    To: Ministry of Truth
    Re: Usage of Phrase ‘Illegal Immigrant’

    Dear Mr. Minister,

    Please thank your staff for their hard working is clarifying this issue. I have been struggling for many years with the ambiguous term, ‘Illegal Immigrant’. Your clarification has made things very clear and we are all better for it. Hail INGSOC!! Victory is at hand.

    Winston Smith

    • saxonsun

      Simply excellent!

  • kjh64

    Burglar-Uninvited guest
    Embezzler-Undocumented financial transaction
    Assault-Unarthorized physical contact
    Rape-Unrequited love
    Illegall Migrant-Undocumented worker
    There, now nobody is offended

    • Cape to Cairo

      Drug dealer – Unlicensed pharmacist

  • The AP Style Manual appears to be to “illegal immigrants” what Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is to homosexuality.

  • Jss

    Illegal immigrant no more.
    Taxpayer, never.
    Patriot, yeah right!
    American, no habla.

  • mobilebay

    And drug runners are “Unlicensed Pharmacists.” The term “illegal alien” is a correct term, and I will continue to use it. This is a ploy to sugar coat those who sneak into our country. But we must admit, seeing how our government welcomes them – crime does pay!

  • George White

    A rose by any other name…..just send those bastards back to where they came from!

  • Bobby

    Just more leftist stupidness, that seeks to control the language and thus carry out the leftist agenda– open borders and the further ruination of European-Americans in this case. Peace.

  • [Guest]

    I don’t need to consult the Associated Press. I call ’em what they are—”illegal aliens” and “invaders.”

  • bluffcreek1967

    Leftists, as usual, seek to reform our language, our common sense terms, in order to soften what is so obvious about the term “illegal immigrant” – namely, that the person has entered our country illegally. The Left wants to remove the criminal aspect, the shame and stigma of millions of third-world Mexicans peasants who have chosen to violate our nation’s immigration laws. The Left wants Americans to look upon its criminal invaders as friends, as neighbors, and not as a third-world threat that will soon outnumbers whites as well as eradicate their white culture.

    The Left does it for two main reasons: (1) To legitimize the Mexican invasion for the purpose of increasing Democrat numbers; and (2) To help further nullify America as a white nation with a distinctly Christian influence.

  • ViktorNN

    And yet no one is outraged by the use of the term “legal immigrant,” are they?

  • Hunter Morrow

    How about we call them “Natural Republicans?”

  • MikeS

    “Why did we make the change?”

    Because the malignant tumors (aka liberalism) in our grey matter has the effect of making us extremely susceptible to anti-White propaganda which, in turn, compels us to constantly and incessantly pander to minorities until even the tumor gets a tumor and finally takes pity on us and instructs us to buy some rope and to find a big, sturdy tree with beautiful branches.

  • Bill

    AP: illegal DOES describe the action of millions of “immigrants”. Same way murderous describes blacks. Both are criminals and should be described as criminals. I will keep calling them illegal immigrants.

  • What do we call them, “border confused tourists”?

  • ChingatchCroute

    Ummm, Maybe “Future Democrats”!??? ;-(

  • thoughtcrime

    Criminal Invaders is the new way in which I describe them. How about that. It is much more descriptive of what they really are. If we had a sane government, we would pull ALL our troops from all points on the globe to let those natives fend for themselves and we would immediately put our forces to work to first, declare WAR on Mexico and an invasion of their “nation” would take place. We would first send in our airforce and carpet bomb their drug cartels and cities into dust. At the same time we would use our forces here domestically to roundup all Mexicans (regardless of legal status) and place them in internment camps, then begin deporting them EN MASSE back across the Rio Grande, under pain of death if they set foot back in or nation.
    Next we set a massive DMZ on their side of the border with a no mans land complete with barbed wire, land minds, pungi pits and machine gun armed guard towers every 100 feet and men on the ground with dogs and AK47s.

    These people have proven themselves enemies of the state and have openly declared themselves an invading force with the intent of murdering American citizens both White and black and seizing by force of arms massive amounts of land. What more do we need to know?
    They have openly said this, because they realize they have sufficient numbers for infantry that they want to blunder, murder and rape their way back of their “reconquista”.

    It’s TREASON that our government REFUSES to not do something about this. TREASON!

    • François

      You are absolutely right!

      I love America… or, well, the old America. and I firmly believe there can not be an America without a White majority. A majority Hispanic, left-wing, so-called country, like what the members of La Raza want for the future of the US…? NO, THAT’S NOT AMERICA!

  • yes, illegal immigrant is demeaning, I think AP should replace it with “future US welfare recipient”

  • ryanball

    The proper term is “infiltrators” since they infiltrated our borders at sections that are closed to border crossing.

  • ryanball

    We don’t know all of them are “illegal immigrants” who want to reside permanently in the U.S. and give up their Mexican or other citizenship. Therefore, the correct term is “illegal aliens” which accurately describes the fact that they are foreign nationals (aliens) in this country illegally (with no permission).

    • DudeWheresMyCountry?

      When a Mexican achieves US citizenship they don’t give up their Mexican citizenship. We are giving citizenship to millions who are still, first and foremost Mexican citizens.

  • rightrightright

    The correct term is surely “criminals”. They break the law each time they trespass in a country that did not invite them in and does not want them in.

  • Andy

    And I was really admiring the AP for their honesty on this one…

  • Token Finn

    I guess “racists” won’t be racists any longer either. Just people who have possessed critical thoughts in the past.

  • mobilebay

    How about “Future Democrats?”

    • George

      Without Voter ID laws, how about ‘current Democrats’?

  • Cape to Cairo

    The next time a do-gooder liberal coddles an Illegal Immigrant and says human beings aren’t illegal, remind them of this Federal law: Title 8 (Aliens and Nationality) Section 1325 (Improper Entry by Aliens):

    (a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts

    Any alien who

    (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or

    (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or

    (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under “title 18” or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

    Title 18 under the US Code deals with “Crimes and Criminal Procedures.”

    So don’t buy their “it’s just a civil matter” BS. It’s a CRIME! You have to do something illegal to be charged with a crime (and I’m not looking for some clever attorney to find some obscure exception that gets us off point). If you are an alien and you come here illegally, you are an illegal alien. Plain and simple. No way out of it.

  • Greg Thomas

    The mental gymnastics the open border traitors must perform to justify their support of
    invading criminals is truly amazing. I will never stop using the term illegal invaders. Because that’s exactly what they are .

  • Jefferson

    Jay Leno correctly referred to illegal immigrants as undocumented Democrats. I wonder what pro-amnesty RINOs like the Bush family, John McCain, and the closet Homosexual Lindsey Graham would say about Jay’s comment.

  • FSR

    Doubleplus Ungood!

  • Crawfurdmuir

    Indeed, actions, not people, are illegal. So what do we call someone who disobeys a law? He is a criminal or a violator. Why not, then, “criminal immigrant” or “immigration law violator”?

  • Whirlwinder

    Illegal alien is still the best term. The lame stream media can do what it wants. No thinking people get their news from them. They seem to be shriviling up anyway. Good ridance

  • Either way, that someone’s very presence within a country is illegal demonstrates that the foreigner in question is a criminal.