Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explains:
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.
Why did we make the change?
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.)
Those discussions continued even after AP affirmed “illegal immigrant” as the best use, for two reasons.
A number of people felt that “illegal immigrant” was the best choice at the time. They also believed the always-evolving English language might soon yield a different choice and we should stay in the conversation.
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.
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.
I'm just spit-balling here, but perhaps there's a simpler solution. How about using the correct freaking terminology in the first place??? You see, the phrase "illegal immigrant" is a misnomer. The term "immigrant" has been used to describe someone who has gone through the proper channels to obtain legal status and thus permanently reside in the country. Until that happens, that person is not an "immigrant." With that in mind, those who are not citizens of this country are "aliens." So for those non-residents of the U.S. who are, say, visiting the country on work visas, they are "legal aliens." But those who are in the U.S. establishing residency without going through the proper channels are "illegal aliens."
Seems like the AP is emphasizing the wrong issue here.