The AP’s Irresponsible Style

As a journalist, I have followed the Associated Press’ Stylebook because it provides me a clear-cut basis for how to abbreviate things, what to capitalize, and what words to use.

Until now.

It says that illegal immigrant is preferred to illegal alien and undocumented worker. That’s just not right.

Elie Wiesel said it best: That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”

A human being cannot be illegal.

Furthermore, the cardinal rule of journalism is that if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. If you can’t find proof, it’s not true. If you need to fill these gaps but can’t, it’s time to quote people. But you damn well make sure they’re not full of shit either.

Even if a person could be illegal, a journalist would have to prove that the person broke the law; so if a journalist wanted to call someone an illegal immigrant, the journalist would have to find proof of a person’s name, proof of what law they might be breaking, and proof that they actually broke the law.

Good luck with that.

Good luck finding an immigrant who was given her constitutional right to due process.

There’s a lot of mistreatment of immigrants in our country and in the world, so let’s start by taking back this term. Let’s call people what they are: people. Let’s call immigrants what they are: immigrants. Let’s call immigrants who lack immigration documents what they are: undocumented.

Let’s call that section of the AP Stylebook what it is: Bullshit.


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