Reader says politically correct terms undermine fact check of Rick Perry on murders by "aliens"

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agents patrol along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border Feb. 24, 2015, near Rio Grande City (Associated Press/Eric Gay).
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agents patrol along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border Feb. 24, 2015, near Rio Grande City (Associated Press/Eric Gay).

A reader, emailing, told us our check of Rick Perry's 2014 claim about homicides committed by "illegal aliens" has no credibility--not because we missed in our math, say, but because "throughout your analysis, politically correct terms are used which are either incorrect or deliberately deceitful."

"For example, the very last line of your examination states refers to the arrest of more than 200,000 'immigrants.' This is an outrageous assertion," the reader wrote. "Foreign nationals who conspire with human smugglers to evade border controls or who file a visa application, under oath swearing to the veracity of the information and then violate its terms and commit perjury, are NOT immigrants. The Immigration and Nationality Act refers to them as ILLEGAL ALIENS. They are not immigrants."

The reader also bridled at our use of "unauthorized residents" to refer to individuals living in the United States without legal permission."There is no such term in immigration law. However, the term 'illegal alien'is specifically written in immigration law," the reader said.

We were sorry to read this judgment. But we also thought readers might be interested to know that we generally try to hew to writing style guidelines overseen by the Associated Press.

Below, see the full AP entry on references to "illegal immigration," which we fetched afresh July 17, 2015:

"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: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or 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?

"People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people staying in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, specify in the story that they are protected from deportation for two years and allowed to work. Add details on the DACA program lower in the story."

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