Yes, really. Remember, even a notorious immigration squish like McCain refuses to bow to Orwellian demands to stop using the term “illegal immigrant.” With good reason: Isn’t “illegal immigrant” itself a politically correct alternative to the statutory term “alien”? “Illegal alien” was too harsh and Other-y, so “illegal immigrant” came into vogue. They’re just like other immigrants! Except without following all the immigration rules.
If they want something more precise, how about “UNAUTHORIZED ALIENS” — just like that, with italics and all-caps? E.g., “Today, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) announced a compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans that would grant legal status to 11 million UNAUTHORIZED ALIENS.”
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 discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)…
Also, 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…
Is this the best way to describe someone in a country without permission? We believe that it is for now. We also believe more evolution is likely down the road.
Ah, “evolution.” Dave Weigel’s right to see that word as a tell, whether in the gay-marriage context or here. Once you see yourself as “evolving,” you’re all but guaranteeing further change towards a political position you’re resisting right now. Can’t wait to find out which Newspeak neologism will follow this if “undocumented” has already been ruled out. “Strangers from beyond” has a nice mystique to it. Although, if push comes to shove, “future Democratic voters” probably wins on accuracy.
The timing here suggests that this is the AP’s dumb little way of cheerleading for immigration reform in Congress — amnesty shills have been pushing the “no human being is ‘illegal'” slogan for years — but in that case why not excise the term “illegal” altogether? They’re not dropping it, they’re just nudging their reporters to apply it to a person’s behavior rather than to the person himself. The real loser is AP copy writers who now need to replace “illegal immigrant” with “friend you haven’t met yet” or whatever. Sonny Bunch offers a few examples of the same stupid, word-wasting rule in practice:
Thus were a thousand mocking tweets born. Exit question: When does the AP decide that reporters can no longer refer to gays getting married as “gay marriage” rather than just “marriage”? Over/under is, let’s say, July.
Update: You know the political correctness here is far gone when even the Democratic head of DHS insists that “illegal immigrant” is perfectly fine.
Update: Now that the bar of “correctness” has been raised, can the Times clear it? Maybe!
The Times, for the past couple of months, has also been considering changes to its stylebook entry on this term and will probably announce them to staff members this week. (A stylebook is the definitive guide to usage, relied upon by writers and editors, for the purpose of consistency.)
From what I can gather, The Times’s changes will not be nearly as sweeping as The A.P.’s…
It’s good to see these moves taking place. Language evolves and it’s time for these changes. Early in my tenure as public editor, I considered this question and came down in favor of the continued use of “illegal immigrant,” because it was a clear and easily understandable term. My position on this has changed over the past several months. So many people find it offensive to refer to a person with an adjective like “illegal” that I now favor the use of “undocumented” or “unauthorized” as alternatives.
There’s journalism for you. She favored a term that’s acceptable to politicians on both sides because it’s “clear and understandable,” but then amnesty shills started to bully her so she opted for the far less precise Orwellian term “undocumented immigrant.” Give her a Pulitzer.