Associated Press Tells Reporters Not to Call Migrants Flooding the Border a ‘Crisis’ in Memo

Immigrants at the southern US border, some wearing t-shirts that read “Biden Please Let Us In” at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on March 2, 2021, photo by Guillermo Arias AFP/Getty

UPDATE: This report originally said the memo was leaked, but AP published it themselves.

The Associated Press told reporters not to call the surge of illegal migrants at the border a “crisis” in a memo.

The memo was posted on Twitter on Friday.

“Here are some tips to language to use and not use,” the memo said.

The Associated Press went on to say of the word “crisis” that “the current event in the news — a sharp increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors — is a problem for border officials, a political challenge for Biden and a dire situation for many migrants who make the journey, but it does not fit the classic dictionary definition of a crisis, which is: ‘A turning point in the course of anything; decisive or crucial time, stage, or event,’ OR ‘a time of, or a state of affairs involving, great danger or trouble, often one which threatens to result in unpleasant consequences [an economic crisis] —SYN. Emergency.’”

“Therefore, we should avoid, or at the least, be highly cautious, about referring to the present situation as a crisis on our own, although we may quote others using that language. If using the word ‘crisis,’ we need to ask of what and to whom. There could be a humanitarian crisis if the numbers grow so large that officials cannot house the migrants safely or in sanitary conditions. Migrants may face humanitarian crises in their home countries. In theory, there could be a security or a border crisis if officials lose control of the border, allowing people to enter unencumbered in large numbers. But, in general, avoid hyperbole in calling anything a crisis or an emergency,” the memo continued.

Varela was sent the memo as he was researching a Washington Post op-ed entitled “Stop using ‘surge’ and ‘wave’ to describe what’s happening at the border.”

AP’s editorial guidelines are influential and widely considered the gold standard by other publications, though their decisions have appeared to be increasingly partisan in recent years.


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