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Associated Press Goes Full Orwell On Illegal Immigrants


In a gross abuse of dissembling reality, the Associated Press announced today that it has dropped the term “illegal immigrant” used to describe immigrants who have entered the country, um, illegally.

The AP defends the linguist twist as being part of the journalistic junta’s efforts to scrub labels from its Stylebook and better align with “the always-evolving English language,” noting that:

…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.

Wonderful. And fat people are no longer fat; they’re just people of a healthy weight who have eaten too much and exercised too little. More from the AP’s blog:

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.

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.

What could be more clear than defining an immigrant who enters the country illegally, as an illegal immigrant? Certainly not the AP’s new standard, which serves only to muddy the waters in favor of a progressive liberal political correctness and, notably, provides no affirmative guidance on what term should be used to describe an immigrant who enters the country illegally:

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.

So what term should be used? Jay Leno provides some guidance, via NewsBusters:

The AP’s move marks a significant shift from its more reasoned and defensible decision last year to reaffirm its use of the “illegal immigrant” moniker:

But what about the cases where we do write “illegal immigrants”? Why not say “undocumented immigrants” or “unauthorized immigrants,” as some advocates would have it?

To us, these terms obscure the essential fact that such people are here in violation of the law. It’s simply a legal reality.

Terms like “undocumented” and “unauthorized” can make a person’s illegal presence in the country appear to be a matter of minor paperwork. Many illegal immigrants aren’t “undocumented” at all; they may have a birth certificate and passport from their home country, plus a U.S. driver’s license, Social Security card or school ID. What they lack is the fundamental right to be in the United States.

Without that right, their presence is illegal. Some say the word is inaccurate, because depending on the situation, they may be violating only civil, not criminal law. But both are laws, and violating any law is an illegal act (we do not say “criminal immigrant”).

Finally, there’s the concern that “illegal immigrant” offends a person’s dignity by suggesting his very existence is illegal. We don’t read the term this way. We refer routinely to illegal loggers, illegal miners, illegal vendors and so forth. Our language simply means that a person is logging, mining, selling, etc., in violation of the law — just as illegal immigrants have immigrated in violation of the law.

Loggers, miners and vendors who routinely break the law, rejoice! You’re no longer illegal loggers, miners and vendors, just ones who have run afoul of the law. So reasons the self-proclaimed “world’s most trusted news organization.”

Bonus Round: House Guest Anthony Hager tackled this issue last year, when Creative Loafing was pushing the “Drop The I-Word” campaign.

Update: The NY Times looks to follow the AP’s lead, and is pondering its own version of linguistic evolution.

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