AP Style Illegal Immigration

What is Illegal Immigration?

AP Style holds that “illegal immigration” is entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law.

Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use “illegal” only to refer to an action, not a person. For example,

  • illegal immigration


  • illegal immigrant

AP Style holds that acceptable variations of this are,

  • living in a country illegally
  • entering a country illegally
  • living/entering without legal permission

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms “illegal alien,” “an illegal,” “illegals,” or “undocumented.”

Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

AP Style holds that people who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use “temporary resident status,” with details on the program lower in the story.

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