Leaked Memo Urges GOP to Say ‘Undocumented Immigrants’

The leaked memo also urged members of the GOP to stop using the words 'illegals,' 'aliens' and the term 'anchor baby.'

By Jorge Rivas Jan 29, 2013

A prominent center-right group working to bring more Latino voters to the Republican Party sent out a memo urging the GOP to start referring to immigrants without papers as "undocumented immigrants."

"When talking about immigrants: Do use ‘undocumented immigrant’ when referring to those here without documentation," read the memo sent out by The Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) that was obtained by The Hill.

HLN is co-chaired by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. The organization identifies as an "advocacy action group focused on engaging the Hispanic community on center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government and individual empowerment."

The leaked memo also urged members of the GOP to stop using the words ‘illegals,’ ‘aliens’ and the term ‘anchor baby.’

"Tone and rhetoric will be key in the days and weeks ahead as both liberals and conservatives lay out their perspectives. Please consider these tonally sensitive messaging points as you discuss immigration, regardless of your position," HLN executive director Jennifer Korn wrote in the memo.

The memo apparently arrived too late for the Senators that took part in the press conference Monday unveiling the "Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform." Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) used the term ‘illegal immigrant’ during the press conference.

But a few hours later Jeff Flake (R-AZ), also a member of the bipartisan group of senators developing the immigration reform framework, had a different tone in a conversation with "News Hour" host Gwen Ifill.

"I think you’ll see a different tone all the way around," Sen. Flake explained to Ifill after she asked if using the term undocumtented immigrant was a conscious decision. "I’m from ground zero in this issue in Arizona and you’ve seen a different tone in the last year or so and you’ll continue to see a different tone moving ahead across the entire country."

Flake’s words are a sign there is a significant shift on immigration after the party had a disappointing election. But perhaps the more significant change is that the party is coming to accept they can’t call human beings illegal.

"We started the Drop the I-Word campaign because it was clear that the I-word is not neutral. It reflects the value we assign to people, families and communities," said Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Colorlines.com.

"The GOP is now joining many American communities who have decided to stop using a word that is both inaccurate and dehumanizing. Their shift reflects a changed climate for immigrants and hope for a fuller policy debate than we have been able to have in a decade," said Sen.