Associated Press adopts Orwellian doublespeak - drops 'illegal immigrant'

Remember hearing about Operation Wetback in the 1950s? President Eisenhower deported a million illegal aliens who were depressing farmworker wages. In a time when twisted concepts of political correctness hadn't been contrived, the President enforced immigration policy in a manner that was in the best interest of Americans.1,2

Then in 1977, President Carter deliberately adopted the terms undocumented alien and undocumented immigrant in order to soften the language used in immigration discussions, while still feigning the desire to halt illegal immigration.3

The bias of the mainstream media (MSM) towards lawbreaking and illegal immigration is blatantly obvious. Over the past decade, it has been extraordinarily difficult to find a mainstream media article that uses correct terminology when referring to illegal aliens. The terms "undocumented worker", "undocumented immigrant", "undocumented alien", "undocumented student", and "illegal immigrant" are often used to describe those who have broken the law of our land to enter and work in our country illegally. These are all misleading and deliberately obfuscated terms.

Indeed, in recent years, it has been notably unusual for even the race or nationality of an accused criminal illegal alien to be seen in print. Any attributes identifying an accused criminal as an illegal alien or a foreign national are deliberately self-censored from news coverage.

As A. J. Liebling so aptly observed,

"Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one."12

The mainstream media's self-censorship culminated on April 2, 2013 with the Associated Press' expungement of the term "illegal immigrant" from its Stylebook.13,17 (Apparently "illegal alien" was clandestinely expunged years ago.)

A Washington Post article announced that:

The Associated Press has dropped the phrase “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook, a victory for immigrant advocates [sic] who argue that the term is biased against the people it describes.

“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” a blog post from AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explains. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”...

The AP has previously rejected the term “undocumented immigrants,” favored by some pro-reform activists, as inaccurate. Many people in the country illegally have documents, just not the right ones...

So if they’re not illegal or undocumented, how should one refer to the 11 million [to 40 million] people in the country illegally?...13

It might prove useful at this point to elucidate the correct terminology.

  1. An immigrant is "a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence"6. An immigrant is an invited guest - a person who comes to a country where they are not a citizen in order to settle there. The term "immigrant" implies permanent, legal, residency. (Although because of amnesties and status adjustments, about 25% of currently legal immigrants first came here illegally).
  2. An alien is defined by the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services as "any person not a citizen or national of the United States".4 The term is defined by United States statute, in Section 1101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (with amendments by Congress through 2001). Aliens can be either legally or illegally present in the U.S.5
    The term "alien" is purposefully and appropriately used in US Government documents, such as in "AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card", and
    "Immigration and Nationality Act(INA) — An Act of Congress that, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalization and removal of aliens".4
  3. An illegal alien is "a foreigner who has entered or resides in a country unlawfully or without the country's authorization."7 An illegal alien is an alien - that is, a foreign national - who has illegally entered the United States, or who enters legally and then deliberately overstays their visa. An illegal alien is a criminal subject to as much as six months in jail for first offense and subject to federal felony charges for subsequent entries after initial deportation.
    Colorado defines an illegal alien as "anyone who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable, or anyone who has 'overstayed a visa' or otherwise violated the terms of his or her legal admission into the United States. Sometimes known as an 'illegal immigrant.'"8

    The term "illegal alien" is purposefully and appropriately used in US Government documents, such as "Immigration Investigations, Enforcement, Detention and Removal: For information about immigration investigations, enforcement, detention or removal of aliens from the U.S., or to report suspected illegal aliens or other illegal immigration activity, please visit the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement website at"9 and

    "An illegal alien who entered the United States without inspection, for example, would be strictly defined as an immigrant under the INA but is not a permanent resident alien."10 and

    "Certain illegal aliens who were eligible to apply for temporary resident status under the legalization provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986."11

Someone once said:

He who controls the language controls the debate."

One might wonder what other stylish, politically correct terminology will be deployed as the amnesty-mongers ply their agenda. Perhaps "undocumented citizen"?

Or perhaps, as Jay Leno quipped:

And in a groundbreaking move, the Associated Press, the largest news gathering outlet in the world, will no longer use the term ‘illegal immigrant.’ That is out. No longer ‘illegal immigrant.’ They will now use the phrase ‘undocumented Democrat.’14

Journalist Michelle Malkin nails the problem when she writes:

Just a few years ago, the AP resisted open-borders demands and the pressure of political correctness in favor of pithiness and precision. In 2010, a member of the "Diversity Committee" of the Society of Professional Journalists launched a campaign "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien." The crusading "journalist" argued that foreign law-breakers should instead be labeled "undocumented workers" or "undocumented immigrants."...

So what changed? "Journalist" Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor, attributes the move to the "evolving" English language. I attribute it to the "evolving" transformation of once-neutral news organizations into brazenly transparent satellite lobbying outfits for the left. It's not media bias that's the problem, of course. It's the sanctimonious pretense of objectivity to which these alleged practitioners of journalism cling.15


Update: April 11, 2013:

USA Today concedes to the political correctness: correct terminology yields to aggressive obfuscation.

An April 11, 2013 Tripwire article USA Today Changes Style On ‘Illegal Immigrant’ notes that:

"The term illegal immigration is acceptable, but do not label people as illegal immigrants, except in direct quotes," William Coon wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday evening. "Undocumented immigrant, undocumented worker and unauthorized immigrant are acceptable terms — depending on accuracy, clarity and context — for foreign nationals who are in the country illegally. An alternative is to use a phrase such as “people who entered the U.S. illegally” or “living in the country without legal permission.



1. How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico, Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2006:

Fifty-three years ago, when newly elected Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House, America's southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve. As many as 3 million illegal migrants had walked and waded northward over a period of several years for jobs in California, Arizona, Texas, and points beyond.

President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic. He did it quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents – less than one-tenth of today's force. The operation is still highly praised among veterans of the Border Patrol.

General Eisenhower... quoted a report in The New York Times, highlighting one paragraph that said: "The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican 'wetbacks' to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government."

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, published by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Historical Association, this illegal workforce had a severe impact on the wages of ordinary working Americans. The Handbook Online reports that a study by the President's Commission on Migratory Labor in Texas in 1950 found that cotton growers in the Rio Grande Valley, where most illegal aliens in Texas worked, paid wages that were "approximately half" the farm wages paid elsewhere in the state.

2. Operation Wetback, PBS:

In 1949 the Border Patrol seized nearly 280,000 illegal immigrants [illegal aliens]. By 1953, the numbers had grown to more than 865,000, and the U.S. government felt pressured to do something about the onslaught of immigration. What resulted was Operation Wetback, devised in 1954 under the supervision of new commissioner of the Immigration and Nationalization Service, Gen. Joseph Swing.

Swing oversaw the Border patrol, and organized state and local officials along with the police. The object of his intense border enforcement were "illegal aliens," but common practice of Operation Wetback focused on Mexicans in general. The police swarmed through Mexican American barrios throughout the southeastern states. Some Mexicans, fearful of the potential violence of this militarization, fled back south across the border. In 1954, the agents discovered over 1 million illegal immigrants.

- It should be noted that just as the promise of amnesty encourages more and more illegal aliens to sneak into the United States, the threat of imminent deportation entices illegal aliens to return home to reunite with their families. There is no need to deport 12 million to 40 million illegal aliens today. Simply enforcing existing laws against hiring illegal aliens will cause illegal aliens to return home to reunite with their families. - fe

3. Jimmy Carter, Undocumented Aliens Message to the Congress, August 4, 1977:

I am proposing to Congress today a set of actions to help markedly reduce the increasing flow of undocumented aliens in this country and to regulate the presence of the millions of undocumented aliens already here... My Administration is strongly committed to aggressive and comprehensive steps toward resolving this problem..."

4. U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, Glossary of Terms, as of April 3, 2013.

5. What is an alien?, Juan Mann's Frequently Asked Questions About Immigration and the Law,, December 11, 2002

6. Merriam-Websiter dictionary - immigrant.

7. Dictionary - illegal alien.

8. Implementation of Senate Bill 06-090 Performance Audit, Colorado State Auditor, Department of Public Safety, Department of Local Affairs, May 2009.

9. USCIS Service and Office Locator, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, as of April 3, 2013.

10. Permanent Resident Alien, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, as of April 3, 2013.

11. Legalized Aliens, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, as of April 3, 2013.

12. Quotations page - Liebling.

13. AP drops ‘illegal immigrant’ from Stylebook, Washington Post, April 2, 2013.

14. Video: Leno’s shot at the AP, Democrats, and immigration reform, HotAir, April 3, 2013.

15. The Open-Borders Reporters Who Banned "Illegal Immigrant", Michelle Malkin, April 3, 2013.

16. Illegal Alien Propaganda: A Critical Lesson in Terminology and Tactics, Accuracy in Media, April 12, 2013

17. ‘Illegal immigrant’ no more, The Definitive Source - AP Blog, April 2, 2013.

18. Ike and those pesky wetbacks, Fred Elbel, May, 2014