How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The 'illegal' vs. 'undocumented' debate - what should it be?

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student activist's t-shirt, December 2010

The debate over the use of "illegal" in the media as a way to refer to immigrants living and working in the United States without legal authorization continues, most recently in the form of a direct appeal to the news organization whose style on the term is followed by most mainstream media.

In a recent style update, the Associated Press clarified that it did not sanction the use of "undocumented," which is frequently used. The AP clarified that it did not use "illegal alien," "an illegal," "illegals" or "undocumented," but that "living in the country without permission" was an acceptable variation.

In response, the magazine ColorLines, published by the social justice think tank the Applied Research Center, had a petition going last week to urge readers to contact the AP directly as the news organization sought input for its 2012 AP Stylebook. ColorLines, which last year launched a "Drop the I-Word" campaign, listed these as suggested terms on its petition: