Associated Press Defends Use Of 'Illegal Immigrant'

The Associated Press clarified its position on the phrase "illegal immigrant" after much debate on Friday.

Poynter reported on a new AP memo explaining the organization's continued use of the phrase. Tom Kent, deputy managing editor for standards and production, issued the message after recent concerns about the term. Last month, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, a former senior contributing editor for The Huffington Post, challenged the AP and the New York Times to stop using the phrase.

Kent described the AP's decision to continue using "illegal immigrant," rather than "undocumented immigrant," as a matter of accuracy.

"Many illegal immigrants aren’t 'undocumented' at all; they may have a birth certificate and passport from their home country, plus a U.S. driver’s license, Social Security card or school ID," he wrote. "What they lack is the fundamental right to be in the United States."

He also responded to critics who say that the phrase is dehumanizing because it suggests someone's "very existence is illegal." Kent said that the AP's language "simply means that illegal immigrants have immigrated in violation of the law."

He added that there are instances where the term is used inaccurately, and offered tips to help prevent them. Click over to the AP for the full memo.

The debate over the issue recently took on renewed vigor. Earlier this month, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan also defended the newspaper's continued use of "illegal immigrant," explaining that she saw "no advantage for Times readers" to abandon the phrase.

"It is clear and accurate; it gets its job done in two words that are easily understood," Sullivan wrote.