Actions might be illegal, but people are not, executive editor Kathleen Carroll said.
“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” Carroll wrote online.
“Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”
The AP Styleguide is a reference manual and dictionary for many reporters working across the United States; however, many newspapers, websites and TV stations will often vary from AP.
Still, the decision was hailed as important by immigration advocacy groups.
Colorlines – which launched its “Drop the I word” campaign three years ago – said “illegal immigrant” can be used as a “racially charged slur.”
“It’s great to see the Associated Press stand up for responsible journalistic standards. The style guide is the last word on journalistic practice so it’s particularly important for the AP to set this standard,” said Rinku Sen, executive director at Colorlines.com.
“This should put the debate to rest.”
Another influential news source is considering a change, The Poynter Institute of journalism reported.
Phil Corbett, the New York Times editor in charge of standards, told Poynter that the newspaper was planning to makes its own announcement soon.
“We’ve been discussing some possible revisions in our guidance on these terms for a couple of months,” Corbett told Poynter.org.
“Coincidentally, we had been expecting to send a memo to the staff soon, possibly this week.”