End of 'illegal' immigrants? AP change mirrors public shift, some say.
AP will no longer use the phrase 'illegal immigrant.' The AP stylebook has significant influence in the media world, meaning the change is about more than just semantics.
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The new AP guideline speaks to the heart of the political debate over immigration today, says Robin Jacobson, an associate professor at the University of Puget Sound who teaches courses in immigration politics. The struggle over immigration reform is essentially about how to understand and conceptualize immigrants, she notes in an e-mail interview, “not about the exact numerical limit on admissions or the details of immigration procedures."Skip to next paragraph
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"Is undocumented immigration to be understood as a crime or a technical bureaucratic violation? Are those without the proper papers rational actors in an irrational system or criminals who don't respect any rule of law?" she adds.
In this debate and others like it, the AP has extraordinary, but unrecognized, power, says Hillary Warren, an associate professor of communication at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. “It determines what we call something.”
In February, the AP changed its style to allow for the use of "husband" or "wife," instead of "partner," when referring to same-sex marriage. “That language both recognized a significant change in American society and reinforced that change,” she adds in an e-mail.
Now, deciding that a group of people would no longer be called "illegal" will change the assumptions that consumers will make when reading or hearing a story about immigration, Professor Warren says.
Others agree. The style change “reflects a growing consensus that undocumented migration is not an indication of criminality or a rejection of the rule of law,” adds Professor Jacobson of the University of Puget Sound
But some media analysts suggest that the AP has abdicated a crucial role in the media landscape. “One of the major influences on American journalism in the modern era – the Associated Press (since 1846) – has bowed to political correctness in its decision to remove any reference to 'illegal immigration' from the venerable Stylebook,” says Mitch Land, dean of the School of Communication & the Arts at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., in an e-mail.
Calling the AP stylebook a “Bible of American journalism,” he says it is on a “downward spiral into the abyss of the so-called 'progressive' to be all things to all people with taking no offense to anyone.”
The social and economic costs that must be borne by working Americans, whose taxes must support the immigrants, must be accurately represented in the media marketplace, he says. “We depend upon a common lexicon of references for consistency and professionalism, not some illusion of fairness.”
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