NYT changes style slightly on ‘illegal immigrant’

The New York Times has “come up with more detailed and nuanced stylebook guidelines” on the use of the term “illegal immigrant,” Associate Managing Editor for Standards Philip Corbett tells Poynter in an emailed statement. Some people, the guidelines read, view the term “as loaded or offensive.”

Without taking sides or resorting to euphemism, consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions: who crossed the border illegally; who overstayed a visa; who is not authorized to work in this country.

Here’s the new entry:

illegal immigrant may be used to describe someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization. But be aware that in the debate over immigration, some people view it as loaded or offensive. Without taking sides or resorting to euphemism, consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions: who crossed the border illegally; who overstayed a visa; who is not authorized to work in this country.

Unauthorized is also an acceptable description, though it has a bureaucratic tone. Undocumented is the term preferred by many immigrants and their advocates, but it has a flavor of euphemism and should be used with caution outside quotations. Illegal immigration, because it describes the issue rather than an individual, is less likely than illegal immigrant to be seen as troubling.

Take particular care in describing people whose immigration status is complex or subject to change – for example, young people brought to this country as children, many of whom are eligible for temporary reprieves from deportation under federal policies adopted in 2012.

Do not use illegal as a noun, and avoid the sinister-sounding alien.

“We’re well aware of the debate over these terms, and we understand the sensitivity of this issue for many people,” Corbett’s statement says. “We have had many discussions in recent months among reporters, editors and outside parties, and have come up with more detailed and nuanced stylebook guidelines on the use of ‘illegal immigrant’ and other terms. The goal is to give our reporters and editors a range of options in describing this complex topic.”

The Associated Press changed its style on the term at the beginning of the month. Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas, a former reporter for The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, told Poynter at the time he was very interested in seeing if the Times would follow suit.

Tuesday, some people demonstrated outside the paper’s office, advocating it drop the term.

Vargas was among them, Christine Haughney reports. He told her “he had mixed emotions about The New York Times’s updated policy.”

“The New York Times can’t have it both ways,” he said.

PreviouslyAP changes style on ‘illegal immigrant’ | AP memo clarifies how to use the phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ | The New York Times explains why it still uses ‘illegal immigrant’ | Jose Antonio Vargas ‘disappointed’ NYT not budging on ‘illegal immigrant’

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  • sargeh

    Wow! That sure was a HUGE protest at the Times. Why are PCers stumbling all over themselves looking for neutral/PC language when talking about an illegal situation?

  • canardnoir

    They’d actually be better served getting their facts correct and vetting their reporters psychological character, than worrying about the spin-doctored semantics of the English language.

  • canardnoir

    Maybe they should add the caveat to their standard style guidelines saying something like – “It remains unclear whether they have acted with the intent to breach federal law, or that they have simply lacked the understanding of the so-called American rule of law, because they were apparently not born in the United States or any of its territories, so they deserve a pass. And there is no further evidence that the cargo which they were carrying, was known to them as being either illegal or explosive, despite their apparent lack of personal identification…”

  • John McSherry

    Perhaps illegal immigrants should be called CHALLENGED CITIZENS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Reece/577862648 John Reece

    “Immigration scofflaw” works for me. So does “illegal settler”, a term progressives often apply to Jews who move to East Jerusalem.

    “Scab labor” would also be accurate, assuming the subjects are working and not, like Obama’s Aunt Zaeyuni, in social welfare since day one.

  • alexlamb

    Typical of crazy far left radical democrats to not call it as it is starting with Obama who will not say muslim fundamentalist when referring to muslim terrorist. he won’t use teh word muslim or islam.
    Don’t say it means it doesnt exist.

  • Jrosen07

    I prefer the term “foreign citizen trespasser.”

  • Joyce Donaldson

    More pc garbage, well in my opinion how about un-documented “demoRAT”!

  • http://twitter.com/BtterflyDragon Butterfly Dragon

    Complex topic? They’re here illegally or not. There is nothing complex about it.