Clinton Changes Position, Drops I-Word From Public Remarks

By Sameer Rao Nov 25, 2015

Two weeks after using the term "illegal immigrants" during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has publicly resolved to no longer use the I-word to describe undocumented immigrants. 

Fusion reports that the Democratic presidential candidate’s quick change came during a Telemundo-hosted Facebook chat yesterday (November 24). During the chat, immigration reform activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas referred to Clinton’s New Hampshire comments and asked her to stop using the I-word: 

Madam Secretary, in speaking at a campaign stop about immigration reform, you recently referred to "illegal immigrants"—an offensive term that many leaders and media have abandoned in recent years. On behalf of the organization I founded, Define American, and the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in this country—including myself—I am asking all the presidential candidates to recognize that #WordsMatter by committing to not using the term "illegal" when referencing the undocumented population. Will you make that commitment?

Clinton apologized for her previous use of the term and pledged to no longer use it:

Yes, I will. That was a poor choice of words. As I’ve said throughout this campaign, the people at the heart of this issue are children, parents, families, DREAMers. They have names, and hopes and dreams that deserve to be respected. I’ve talked about undocumented immigrants hundreds of times and fought for years for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will continue to do so. We are a country built by immigrants and our diversity makes us stronger as a nation—it’s something to be proud of, celebrate and defend. -H

The shift away from using the I-word can be traced to a long-term movement by several groups, including Colorlines’ parent organization, Race Forward. As executive director and publisher Rinku Sen wrote earlier this month, "Because the slur and the violence remain, our humanity requires us to renew our efforts to eliminate usage of this word."