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AP Drops ‘Illegal Immigrant’; Language For A New Reality

Evening Edition

Aired 4/4/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Lilia Velasquez is a San Diego attorney specializing in immigration and nationality law.

Grant Barrett is co-host of public radio's "A Way With Words."


Response To AP Dropping 'Illegal Immigrant'

Alisa Barba for Fronteras Desk: When Is An 'Illegal Immigrant' No Longer Illegal?

Roy Peter Clark for Poynter: AP dumps ‘illegal immigrant’ but not neutrality

Tim Graham for Newsbusters: On Pacifica, Leftist Claims Victory in AP Stylebook Change, Hope for Victory on Immigration Next

The Associated Press announced this week that it would adopt a policy followed for years by many news organizations, including KPBS, of not using the term "illegal immigrant." The rationale given by the AP Stylebook is that illegal can refer to an action, but not a person.

This change comes as lawmakers in Washington are working to hammer out a plan to reform the nation's immigration policy. Many of those who might be called "illegal" now could be taking the first steps on a pathway to citizenship by the end of the year.

It's an issue about language evolving to meet new realities, but is this suggested change in language substantive? Practical? More accurate? Or is it merely more politically correct?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 4, 2013 at 2:44 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

So what terminology is approved? national trespasser? infiltrator alien?
When describing someone who breaks the law, why is the adjective ‘illegal‘ inappropriate? Would it be more accurate to refer to them as criminal immigrants?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 4, 2013 at 4:22 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Removing politics and "political correctness" from this, I think it makes sense from a linguistic perspective.

It's the ACTION that is illegal, not the PERSON.

Thus, the term "illegal immigrant" is incorrect, however the term "illegal immigration" is correct.

If I robbed a bank, I wouldn't be called "an illegal" I would be called someone who did something illegally.

I think a fair term to use would be "non-naturalized immigrant" because naturalization refers to full legal attainment as a citizen. With guest worker programs, and various designations that exist, someone may not be a fully naturalized citizen, but they may not be here illegally either. Simply saying "illegal immigrant" would not classify all non-naturalized immigrants.

Again, I am speaking linguistically and logically here without trying to put a "political spin" on it.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | April 5, 2013 at 8:29 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

economic insurgents ?

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | April 5, 2013 at 10:10 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

They broke the law climbing over the fence (illegal). Many work jobs without paying taxes (illegal). Some sell drugs (illegal). Some go into prostitution (illegal). Some steal other peoples identification (illegal). Car theft (illegal). Drunk driving (illegal).

Does softening their first illegal action promote additional illegal activity? I submit that it does. They think our justice system and most of the American citizens are soft. They play the lame politicians like a warped violin for potentially future votes. The churches await their potential contributions. When they commit a really serious crime, they slither back home where they cannot be extradited to pay for their crimes.

Illegal is illegal !! Does the media soften the crime to gain more readership? Sell more papers? Makes me wonder. Have more listeners?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | April 5, 2013 at 10:37 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

_ucakoo1, in other words, activities that US citizens likewise particiapte in--except for the fence part. What about where there are no fences?

PDF]ImmIgratIon Myths And The Facts - US Chamber of Douglas Massey, “Five Myths about Immigration: Common. Misconceptions Underlying U.S. Border-Enforcement. Policy,” Immigration Policy Center, August

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | April 5, 2013 at 11:45 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Mission. There are hundreds of crimes daily committed by illegals. If they were not here, the victims of those crimes would have been safe. There will always be crime. Do we need to import it? Betting the victims of these illegals would say "no". Please don't tell me that all of the illegals are trustworthy, hard-working people. I see what happens in my neighborhood. The crimes here are not "myths and misconceptions". They are real threats to me and the people who migrated here legally.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | April 5, 2013 at 12:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Illegal alien is the correct term as it does not refer to a person.

ILLEGAL - The legality of their entry to the US.

ALIEN - Their immigration status.

AP revenues have been plummeting and this is just a sad publicity stunt. Considering their staggering $193 million dollar loss last year, nothing is going to stop their descent into obscurity. Not even editorializing the dictionary.

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