MEDIA
04/23/2013 04:57 pm ET

NY Times Tweaks Entry On 'Illegal Immigrant'

The New York Times announced on Tuesday that the news organization tweaked its entry on the term "illegal immigrant."

The New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan tweeted that the Times changed its entry, but did not ban the term the way other news organizations recently did.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press and USA Today dropped the term from its style guides. The term has long been protested by immigration-rights advocates as being offensive and dehumanizing.

The Times' new entry is below:

illegal immigrant may be used to describe someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization. But be aware that in the debate over immigration, some people view it as loaded or offensive. Without taking sides or resorting to euphemism, consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions: who crossed the border illegally; who overstayed a visa; who is not authorized to work in this country.

Unauthorized is also an acceptable description, though it has a bureaucratic tone. Undocumented is the term preferred by many immigrants and their advocates, but it has a flavor of euphemism and should be used with caution outside quotations. Illegal immigration, because it describes the issue rather than an individual, is less likely than illegal immigrant to be seen as troubling.

Take particular care in describing people whose immigration status is complex or subject to change – for example, young people brought to this country as children, many of whom are eligible for temporary reprieves from deportation under federal policies adopted in 2012.

Do not use illegal as a noun, and avoid the sinister-sounding alien.

The decision made by the Associated Press was especially significant as its stylebook was adopted widely by news organizations across the country. At the time of the AP's announcement, Sullivan tweeted that the Times was considering changing its use of the term. (The Huffington Post uses a modified version of the AP guide with the adoption of the term "undocumented immigrant").

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