LA Times Drops 'Illegal,' 'Undocumented'

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The Los Angeles Times will no longer use the terms “illegal immigrant” or “undocumented immigrant,” the paper announced Wednesday. While the Times has generally avoided such terms for some time, the new guidelines make the policy official.

The paper will instead aim to describe a person’s circumstance, meaning how they entered the United States, and provide context.

The new guidelines instruct reporters to use ‘illegal immigration’ to describe the “phenomenon of entering or residing in a country in violation of the law,” but not to describe an individual except in a direct quotation.

A memo from the paper explained that “‘Illegal immigrant’ is overly broad and does not accurately apply in every situation…’[U]ndocumented immigrant’ similarly falls short of our goal of precision. It is also untrue in many cases, as with immigrants who possess passports or other documentation but lack valid visas.”

The memo noted that the Associated Press, whose stylebook provides the basis for much of the Times style, updated their guidelines in early April.