Last updated on: 3/10/2016 | Author:

Style guide on “illegal immigration” and “illegal immigrants”

As of Apr. 3, 2013, the Associated Press altered its widely-used style guide to no longer allow the use of “illegal immigrant” and “undocumented immigrant.” We reviewed 20 major media entities to see what terminology they used. As of Mar. 9, 2016, 20 of 20 use “illegal immigration,” 20 of 20 use “undocumented immigrant,” 5 of 20 use “illegal immigrant,” and 0 of 20 use “illegal alien.”

We use “illegal immigration” to refer to the act of immigrating illegally. We refer to people who have entered the United States without proper legal documentation and who are deportable if apprehended, and people who have entered the United States legally but who have fallen “out of status” and are also deportable as “people who are in the United States illegally,” “people who have immigrated illegally,” “people in the country illegally,” or “undocumented immigrant.”

Our sites contain quotes from various sources over years of this debate; we have not altered words used by our sources.

20 media entities and their use of various terms in the illegal immigration debate (as of 3/9/16) uses
uses “undocumented immigrant” uses
“illegal immigrant”
uses “illegal alien”
# out of 20 that use the term 20 20 5 0
1 ABC yes yes no no
2 Associated Press (AP) yes yes no no
3 CNN yes yes no no
4 FOX Latino yes yes no no
5 Hispanic Leadership Network yes yes no no
6 Huffington Post yes yes no no
7 Los Angeles Times yes yes no no
8 Miami Herald yes yes no no
9 National Association of Hispanic Journalists yes yes no no
10 National Public Radio (NPR) yes yes no no
11 NBC/MSNBC yes yes no no
12 New York Times yes yes yes* no
13 Reuters yes yes yes no
14 Society of Professional Journalists yes yes no no
15 TIME yes yes no no
16 Univision yes yes no no
17 US NEWS yes yes no no
18 USA Today yes yes yes no
19 Wall Street Journal yes yes yes no
20 Washington Post yes yes yes no

* discouraged by the New York Times style guide