‘Illegal’ is Illegal

The AP Stylebook, a nice reference on deadline or a good doorstop.

The Associated Press Stylebook is a nice reference on deadline and also a good doorstop.

The Associated Press joined the irresistible force that is mainstream media peer pressure and has officially dropped the term “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook. God forbid we say or write anything that is, on its face value, factual or true in spirit. I remember when I still worked at the L.A. bureau many moons ago, I offhandedly used the term “illegal alien” while talking about a Calexico, Calif.-datelined story and was verbally rapped on my knuckles by the newsroom constabulary. Tsk-tsk, newspup.

The AP’s rationale can be found on its blog. Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained that it was part of an effort to expunge the stylebook of “labels.” In the old days, for instance, I could write that my dog was “schizophrenic,” but now I would explain that my dog was simply diagnosed with schizophrenia. Makes all the difference in the world, right? So says I, the man diagnosed with assholism.

Sing it, Phil Collins…


About Chairman Mao

I like fomenting socialist revolutions and purging my homeland of pseudo-intellectualism and capitalist dogma. I also like sports, dogs and food (although I wouldn't consider myself a foodie).
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2 Responses to ‘Illegal’ is Illegal

  1. Christopher Hoven says:

    Under the INA (the Immigration and Nationality Act) in the definitions Section 101, the Act defines “alien.” However, the Act does not define either “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant.” While those terms may be accepted colloquially, they are not accepted definitions under the Act. It is very important to distinguish the type of alien we have: an overstay visa, an undocumented worker, someone with unlawful presence. This may seem ridiculous, but the current immigration system is very complicated and turns on specific definitions and conditions. We must also keep in mind the current system has two components: those who come to the United States for the express purpose of becoming and Immigrant and those who come to the United States for temporary visits, or Non-Immigrants. The first category has three different classes with various paperwork requirements, specific numbers assigned to each category, and world wide immigration limits. The second category, has 23 different types of Visas with 76 subcategories. The Visas range from the most popular, B-1 (visitors or business visa) to F-1 (student), H(1)(b) high skilled worker, to name a few. Each Visa has the requisite paperwork, fees, etc. Once a non-immigrant alien is granted his or her particular Visa, that only allows the alien to travel to a port of entry into the United States. The Visa is issued by the Department of State, but once the alien enters the United States, control is handed over to the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection. The Visa does not allow entry into the United States. The CBP officer determines whether or not to grant entry to the alien and may reduce the time allowed by that particular Visa. Each Non-Immigrant Visa category has numerical limits and time limits.

    For those interested in understanding our current immigration system, I encourage enrolling in The Graduate School’s immigration law class. It is an extraordinarily informative class and provides a glimpse into the complex immigration world.

    • Chairman Mao says:


      There’s no disputing nuances among the types of visas and their legal ramifications. People obtain visas for a variety of reasons. I take issue with clumsy language that dilutes meaning from stories presumably intended to inform. For example, was Jeffrey Dahmer a cannibalistic, convicted serial killer (Achtung! A label!) … or a man imprisoned for multiple murders who had a quirky appetite? I think we expend in an inordinate amount of time and effort to sidestep the PC minefield, to the detriment of critically thinking about solutions to societal issues (immigration needs a solution, no?).


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