Immigrants Celebrate Decision by AP to Eliminate the Term “Illegal Immigrant” from its Stylebook

Chicago, IL – The Associated Press (AP) announced recently that it will no longer sanction the use of the terms “Illegal” or “Illegal Immigrant” to describe foreign nationals residing in a given country without immigration authorization. In light of this announcement, Oscar Chacón, NALACC’s executive director, had the following reaction: Members of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), celebrate the decision by the Associated Press to stop using the terms “Illegal” and “Illegal Immigrant” to refer to human beings.  In theUnited States, these terms have been used by racist and xenophobic organizations to advance their larger goal of promoting an image of immigrants as an economic, social, political and cultural threat to the nation. Since its inception in 2004, and more systematically since its SOMOS/WE ARE initiative launched in 2009, NALACC has insisted that the term “illegal” should never be applied to human beings. Only actions and objects can be called illegal. In addition to being linguistically incorrect, the use of this epithet to refer to human beings is also immoral, as it dehumanizes immigrants. The efforts will turn now to pressing other media outlets and our elected and appointed officials to follow the AP’s good example.  Moving away from the use of derogatory terms for immigrants is a good first step toward disbursing the toxic cloud that has precluded a humane and rational reform of immigration policies, as well as common sense-driven policies when it comes to how we treat immigrant populations. ARC President Rinku: “The AP is the last word in fair journalistic standards. It’s great to see them do the right thing in this instance. Immigrant communities are going to be very excited to have accuracy and humanity restored to coverage of their lives.” Drop the I-Word ( was launched by theAppliedResearchCenter in September 2010 as a national campaign powered by immigrants and diverse communities across the country to eradicate the dehumanizing slur “illegals” from everyday use and public discourse. The i-word opens the door to racial profiling and violence and prevents truthful, respectful debate on immigration. No human being is “illegal.” AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained: “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.” The following statement can be attributed to Alex Nogales, President & CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition: “We applaud AP for its decision to stop using the word “illegal” to describe human beings. For far too long, this term has been accepted as a politically correct way for some to spew hatred, xenophobia, and fear throughout our communities. At a certain point, it lost any descriptive qualities and became nothing more than a slur used to dehumanize and degrade a very important part of our country.  I’m pleased to see the word “illegal” following the path of other slurs such as “wetback” as words that are not acceptable to use in our discourse. We hope that outlets that continue to use this word will follow the lead of the AP and do away with it in short order.” NHMC is a core member of the “Drop the i-Word” campaign led by Applied Research Center.  As part of this campaign, Alex Nogales has met with editors at the AP, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times to ask them to stop using “illegal” to refer to immigrants. In 2012, NHMC commissioned a national poll that confirmed that media is hugely influential in shaping opinions about Latinos and others.  The poll found that in discussing those in this country without documentation, the term “illegal alien” elicited much more negative feelings than the term “undocumented immigrants.”

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