On April 2, 2013, the Associated Press announced that the term “illegal immigrant” will no longer be a part of its stylebook. The decision comes partly as a consequence of recent campaigns which regarded the term “illegal” as inaccurate and causing to label people in a negative way. No alternative term has been proposed yet, although the Associated Press emphasizes the need to describe situations, rather than just labelling individuals.
A spokesperson from the Associated Press has described this new measure as a step in the right direction, avoiding what can be regarded as inaccurate and sometimes stigmatizing terminology in favour of precise descriptions. The emphasis is being placed on specification of the ways in which people entered the country, their nationality, and other individual conditions they might be in.
The Times has stated that the measure is a consequence of the evolution of language, politics and public attitudes, while the Associated Press regarded it as an act of sensitivity to the immigrant community. Among the activists, Jose Antonio Vargas puts forward the idea that “no human being is illegal.” Instead, he emphasizes that actions are illegal, while people are undocumented.
Reporters will now have to find a new way to refer to people they used to call “illegal immigrants”, and only time can provide these new equivalents. Immigrants’ fight against the term highlights the importance of terminology and language and the way in which they help shape society’s worldview.