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Via ABC News:

The Associated Press, the largest news-gathering outlet in the world, will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant."

The news came in the form of a blog entry authored by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll on Tuesday afternoon, explaining that the decision is part of the company's on-going attempt to rid their Stylebook of labels.

"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," Carroll wrote.

The company's decision comes after years of controversy over the term. Fusion, the ABC-Univision joint venture, does not use "illegal immigrant" because we believe it dehumanizes those it describes and we find it to be linguistically inaccurate.

There are now "legal immigrants" and... "those other guys."

Gee, AP -- way to avoid taking a stance in the whole immigration policy debate.

Interestingly enough, the AP's blog announcement also included this little ditty with some increasingly familiar terminology:

Is this the best way to describe someone in a country without permission? We believe that it is for now. We also believe more evolution is likely down the road.

Ah, yes.  Evolution.  The changing tides of evolution are washing up on everything these days -- from gay marriage to immigration reform.  Progressives rejoice:

This is the society in which we live -- wrap your head around this, America:

While we're at it, why don't we reassign terms for other criminal offenses?  Murderers could be rebranded as "friendly reminders of mortality."  Thieves are merely working as "acquisition specialists."  Negligent homicides could now be simply classified as "whoopsies daisies," and sexual assault redefined as "unlawful sexual compulsivity."  Swell.

Read the AP's full statement after the jump.

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.

Is this the best way to describe someone in a country without permission? We believe that it is for now. We also believe more evolution is likely down the road.

Will the new guidance make it harder for writers? Perhaps just a bit at first. But while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.

I suspect now we will hear from some language lovers who will find other labels in the AP Stylebook. We welcome that engagement. Get in touch at stylebook@ap.org or, if you are an AP Stylebook Online subscriber, through the “Ask the Editor” page.

Change is a part of AP Style because the English language is constantly evolving, enriched by new words, phrases and uses. Our goal always is to use the most precise and accurate words so that the meaning is clear to any reader anywhere.

One last thing…
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