AP Stylebook discards the term "illegal immigrant"

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onlinediscountanvils
AP Stylebook discards the term "illegal immigrant"

Not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction...

onlinediscountanvils

[url=http://blog.ap.org/2013/04/02/illegal-immigrant-no-more/]‘Illegal immigrant’ no more[/url]

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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 in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals 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.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

I think we can call this a small victory.

lagatta

It is. The only problem with the new, less-stigmatising terminology, is that is extremely wordy, and mainstream press articles require extreme concision, so they may be contracted in other ways.

Mr.Tea

Will the Associated Press now stop referring to Lebron James as a "basketball player" and instead now describe him as "a human who plays basketball"?

onlinediscountanvils

Mr.Tea wrote:
Will the Associated Press now stop referring to Lebron James as a "basketball player" and instead now describe him as "a human who plays basketball"?

Brilliant question, Tea. You should seriously ask them. [url=http://apstylebook.com/?do=ask_editor&pg=submit_q]ASK THE EDITOR[/url]

6079_Smith_W

lagatta wrote:

It is. The only problem with the new, less-stigmatising terminology, is that is extremely wordy, and mainstream press articles require extreme concision, so they may be contracted in other ways.

True. On the other hand, if there is something about the status of a person that is relevant to the news story, then it is worth explaining exactly what that is. If not, then there is no reason to mention it at all.

Of course, that begs the question of why the term was turned into shorthand in the first place.

mersh

Mr.Tea wrote:

Will the Associated Press now stop referring to Lebron James as a "basketball player" and instead now describe him as "a human who plays basketball"?

 

Wait, are you trying to make a point that referring to people as "illegals" is accurate and acceptable and as non-judgemental as referring to pro athletes? Or are you expressing your outrage over the marginalization and stigmatization of pro athletes by referring to them in their accurate job categories? Because, you know, those two examples are so perfectly alike.

Mr.Tea

It's just incredibly clumsy language. One can be a "basketball player" and one can be an "illegal immigrant". Seems silly to refer to "someone who played basketball" just as much as "someone who resides in the country illegally".

Mr.Tea

To expand a bit: illegal immigration is a crime, as are many others. People are routinely referred to and categorized by the crimes they committed. So, the press will refer to Paul Bernardo as "a murderer" rather than "a person who committed murder".

mersh

Being "illegal" is a crime? A single-category, one-size-fits-all term that applies to every person who may not have full citizenship? It carries no weight of prejudice? It is comparable to being a basketball player, or to keep it in the realm of ciminality, a sadistic murderer? What are your views on referring to people of colour, or people with disabilities? Tell me more.

mersh

Actually, I would prefer to have said racialized people. Sorry. See, though, language can change -- and it is political, especially when we forget our privilege.

6079_Smith_W

Mr.Tea wrote:

To expand a bit: illegal immigration is a crime, as are many others. People are routinely referred to and categorized by the crimes they committed. So, the press will refer to Paul Bernardo as "a murderer" rather than "a person who committed murder".

Or not. Can we expect to see Nelson Mandela,  Conrad Black and Martha Stewart refered to as convicted criminals in every news story? Again, if it is relevant to the story then it is important enough to explain. If not, then there is no good reason to mention it.

And in fact, it likely would NOT be used for any reason other than to smear.

Mr.Tea

Right. If it's relevant to the story that someone is an illegal immigrant (such as in the vast number of stories written about illegal immigration), I don't see the problem in that context of referring to "illegal immigrants". Seems silly to refer to "undocumented workers" anymore so than the guy who stole my bike as the "unauthorized owner" of said bike.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

rabble.ca and babble understand that categorizing a human being as "illegal" is ideologically rooted in racist and xenophobic immigration policy. That's why we don't use the term in our articles, and it's why allies of racialized and exploited peoples have dropped the term for years. Your "logic" (sic), Mr. Tea, is based on your faulty assumption that it is possible that "someone is an illegal immigrant," rather than realizing that such a statement normalizes a particular mode of thinking about immigration and citizenship. We don't call someone convicted of shoplifting an "illegal consumer," or someone smoking contraband cigarettes an "illegal smoker." We don't even call doctors practicing without a license an "illegal doctor." Add to the fact that there is a very real hegemonic violence attendant to calling marginalized people "illegal" and any ally of social justice can see that this move constitutes a major victory in changing the way people talk about migrant and itinerant people.

Why the AP’s Choice to Drop the I-Word Is a Crucial Victory

This decision is a victory for immigrant communities. We took a word that has been normalized by anti-immigrant forces and revealed it as unfit to print because it is both inaccurate and dehumanizing. We started Drop the I-Word in 2010 because we could see the harm that it was doing to our readers and community. In the early days, many people told us it didn’t matter, that the policy was all-important. But the word itself has blocked any reasonable discussion of policy issues, and we have been unable to move forward as a nation while its use has remained common.

The AP’s new guidance is also a victory for journalists, who strive daily to be accurate and honest with their readers. News people have nothing if not our ability to dig underneath the labels, as the AP says, that provide convenient categories for complex people and problems. When communities also experience those categories as demeaning of their humanity, we have failed at our jobs. The AP just gave us a little more clarity about how to avoid that. They’d like to hear our reactions, so send them a little note.

For years, immigration restrictionists have been stopping all discussion cold with “what about illegal don’t you understand?” Well, we did understand—that the word hid severe problems in the policy, that it has been applied selectively to people of color (undocumented, green-card holding, and citizens alike), and that it fuels hateful action.

People have lost their lives behind this word. Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadoran immigrant was beaten to death on the streets of Brooklyn by men yelling that he was a “f__ illegal.” That state of affairs could not be allowed to continue and thousands of people just like you took a stand to bring it to an end.

This campaign is inspired and instructed by historic and contemporary struggles over language. The civil rights movement made us stop saying “colored” and worse. The women’s movement changed newspaper standards to use “Ms.” The LGBT community and GLAAD got “homosexual” replaced with gay and lesbian. And most recently, the disability rights community has been pressing us all to stop using the r-word.

Ours is not the first generation to debate the i-word. In the 1980s, the “No Human Being is Illegal” campaign, which was named by Nobel prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and led by immigrants through the Sanctuary movement, helped humanize immigrants and mobilize support for the 1986 reform. Wiesel’s phrase has been the unofficial tagline for many people supporting this campaign.

Many people contributed to this moment. It would take pages to name them all, but you can see the early adopters here. The tireless staff of the Applied Research Center and Colorlines.com, especially Coordinator Monica Novoa, has lost sleep over this campaign. Roberto Lovato provided critical encouragement and was key to the early campaign strategy.

mersh

Who's referring to undocumented? As the AP guide notes, that too may be inaccurate. There are many, varying degrees of immigration status, and no one term is going to be accurate or adequate, unless we fall back on convenience and prejudice. When I worked as a journalist, we had similar discussions, often denying the political nature of language in favour of getting something simpler down in print. And yes, the language of immigration -- legal, illegal or whatever -- is highly political and I would argue ideological. Denying the pejorative effects of inaccurate labelling only masks the underlying racialized, gendered, and economic processes that produce categories of "legal" and "illegal". I would argue that making journalists (and readers) uncomfortable with these categories is in and of itself a political act.

ETA: Heck, what Catchfire said!