AP To Release Spanish-Language Stylebook, Including Term 'Illegal Immigrant'

ByABC News
November 13, 2012, 4:58 PM

Nov. 14, 2012 — -- The Associated Press started publishing some of its content in Spanish after World War I, but not until next week will the American news agency release a Spanish language stylebook. And one of the most controversial of the nearly-4,000 entries will likely be the term "inmigrante ilegal" -- or "illegal immigrant."

"We don't insist on 'illegal immigrant,'" said Tom Kent, the deputy managing editor and standards editor of the Associated Press. "We accept other terms, you can say 'who is in the country without legal permission,' or 'who does not have legal right to live in the country'... We provide a lot of flexibility."

However, the entry of the term "illegal immigrant" in the new stylebook does make clear that one word will not be permitted. "Indocumentado," the Spanish word for "undocumented," is not to be used unless it appears within quotation marks, according to the forthcoming style guide. Kent says this is because, "it's often not true, they have documents, they have a passport, they have a valid U.S. driver's license --- it's not a question of documents."

And the word "unauthorized"? Kent wasn't sure if was specifically mentioned in the stylebook, but said that he finds it vague.

"You know generally speaking, it's always best to be specific," he said, noting that describing the individual circumstance for each immigrant is always preferable.

The AP and the New York Times' continued use of the term "illegal immigrant" has recently drawn criticism from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and NPR's four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, among others. Critics argue that the term is demeaning and politically charged. CNN, NBC, ABC, Univision, The Miami Herald, and Fox News Latino, have dropped the term.

The AP hopes their new online style manual will become a widely-used resource for Spanish language writers in Latin America, the U.S., and Spain, according to Alejandro Manrique, the Deputy Regional Editor of Latin America/Caribbean for the AP. But some journalists say it will have little impact when it comes to encouraging the use of the controversial term.

Pilar Marrero, the Senior Political and Immigration writer for Los Angeles' La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language daily in the country, is one of those people.

"I see no reason to use the AP's style as a rule. In the media that I've worked [in] we have always been very sensitive to using a term that implies that the person is somehow illegal, when it's the act that should be under question," Marrero, who has worked in Spanish-language media for 26 years, wrote in an email. "I think most Spanish outlets will do what they've always done: have their own rule of style."

Other widely read Spanish-language papers in the U.S. including El Diario La Prensa in New York, La Raza in Chicago, and El Nuevo Herald in Miami, prefer the Spanish word for "undocumented" over "illegal immigrant."

For Huffington Post Voces, which subscribes to the Spanish language AP wire service, the word 'inmigrante ilegal' will continue to be changed by hand to 'indocumentado' before every story regarding the subject is published.

"The term 'illegals' is obviously insulting, and deliberately so. It is very politically loaded," Editorial Director of HuffPost Voces, Gabriel Lerner, wrote in an email.

The AP stylebook warns against using the term "illegals or "illegal alien" in order to "respect the dignity of people in this situation." But Kent, wrote last month that the AP does not believe the term "illegal immigrant" "offends a person's dignitiy."

Lerner, who has worked in Spanish-language media for more than 30 years, disagrees. He noted that little will change for their site when AP's new Spanish language style-guide comes out.

"We will continue to make changes on AP stories, correcting the term to 'undocumented'," he wrote. "Because this is what they are."