Style Guidance home

Borders and Populations

refugee

A refugee is an individual unwilling or unable to return to their country of nationality due to fear of persecution. As with any such descriptor, in order to avoid stigma it is considered best practice to avoid using terms like “refugee” to talk about people unless it is directly relevant to a story.

Rohingya

Language, Please is a living resource that will be regularly updated. We’re working hard on an entry for this topic — please check back in soon.

stateless

Someone is “stateless” if they are not considered to be a citizen of any state. If a story refers to people who are “stateless,” it can be helpful to give the reader a brief explanation of statelessness and how it applies to individuals.

subcontinent

Language, Please is a living resource that will be regularly updated. We’re working hard on an entry for this topic — please check back in soon.

Taiwan

Language, Please is a living resource that will be regularly updated. We’re working hard on an entry for this topic — please check back in soon.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a US immigration status granted to noncitizens who flee their countries of origin due to ongoing war, environmental disasters, or other conditions that are deemed “extraordinary” and “temporary.” Recipients are protected from deportation and may work and live in the US as long as they have this status. If using the term, including a brief explanation on first reference can be helpful for clarity.

unaccompanied migrant children (UMC)

“Unaccompanied migrant children” are migrant children who arrive at the US border without a parent or legal guardian. “Unaccompanied children” or “unaccompanied migrant children” are more neutral terms than “unaccompanied alien children,” which risks othering the children in question.

undocumented immigrant / unauthorized immigrant / non-status immigrant

Undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant, and non-status immigrant are preferred by many advocacy organizations to refer to someone who is not a US citizen or national (over a term such as illegal immigrant, which has racist connotations and can imply criminality). “Alien” is used in some legal documents, but this is usually considered othering or dehumanizing.

xenophobia

Xenophobia is a fear and hatred of foreigners or anything that is foreign. An individual or policy can be both racist and xenophobic; to be as precise as possible, it’s best to avoid conflating the two.

Last updated 08/05/22

Migration is key to so many stories we tell about the world and its peoples, which makes it a challenging topic to cover in a nuanced way. Conflicts can involve the highest stakes, borders are continually shifting, and legal and cultural definitions are frequently at odds. Certain terms related to migration have also taken on specific cultural meanings in the US, and to use them could inadvertently appear to be endorsing a particular viewpoint. 

This section of Language, Please aims to help journalists understand key immigration-related terms and the ways their use continues to evolve. This guidance is intended for US newsrooms and focuses on US policy.

This resource was informed by questions and discussions from our own newsrooms. It is a living document that will expand over time. It is not meant to be comprehensive or the definitive arbiter of language “rules” but instead aims to give context and inform thoughtful decision-making. Have a suggestion for an update, change, or addition? Please get in touch.

How to use: Browse the whole section or search for the term you need guidance on; click into any term for in-depth context, additional resources, and related terms. 

Get in Touch

Language, Please is a living resource and will be updated regularly. Have a question, suggestion, or addition? We’d love to hear from you.

Find an Inclusivity Reader

Access our inclusivity reader directory here.