The Associated Press last week officially omitted "illegal immigrant" from its stylebook. Many media outlets already use the term "undocumented immigrant" to describe people who are living in the United States illegally.
The Star is one such newspaper. On Saturday, Start Editor John Moore wrote:
For the past two years, The Star's style ...has used the term "undocumented immigrant" instead of "illegal immigrant" in news stories when discussing a person who is living in this country illegally.
He's right. Why? The reasoning is simple. People aren't illegal, as the lefty saying goes.
Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, said in an interview with Poynter.org that the use of labels in writing is "kind of a lazy device that those of us who type for a living can become overly reliant on as a shortcut. It ends up pigeonholing people or creating long descriptive titles where you use some main event in someone's life to become the modifier before their name."
Uh, "undocumented immigrant" is no different as a lazy, pigeonholing device than "illegal immigrant," using her logic. It's still a label, isn't it? It's just a softer one, which conveniently downplays the illegal part. You could go with "one who is in the country illegally", but that sort of conflicts with Carroll's reluctance to use "long descriptive titles." Heck, calling someone an immigrant period, even one who is here legally, is a label. Should we drop that too?
It doesn't help her reasoning that "undocumented immigrant is less accurate than "illegal immigrant." Some illegal immigrants ARE documented--with stolen information. However, all of them are illegal. Why not use the most accurate term?
The truth of the matter is that the AP dropped "illegal immigrant" because of political correctness--they caved to political pressure from special interest groups or they themselves fall on the left-hand side of the illegal immigration issue. They are just fine with labels, especially when it comes to labeling conservatives. There are lots of people who want to influence the debate by changing the terms and the AP is facilitating that. Fine for an advocacy group, not fine for objective journalists.