Conservative Group Recommends How to Be 'Tonally Sensitive' on Immigration

Want to be sensitive? Try avoiding terms like "anchor baby," "aliens" and "illegals."

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Now that immigration reform is front-and-center in Washington, conservative politicians may be left in a tricky spot: how to stick to an argument without alienating Hispanic voters.

That’s where talking points come in.

The Hispanic Leadership Network, a conservative group backing comprehensive immigration reform, began circulating talking points around Washington on Monday, including a list of six do’s and don’ts. Among them: don’t say “anchor baby, but do say “undocumented immigrant.” And for goodness sake, avoid all the focus on “amnesty.”

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

Here’s the rundown of do’s and don’ts from HLN:

-- Acknowledge the immigration system is broken, but don’t begin with “we are against amnesty” since it can be interpreted as being against any kind of reform.

-- How to talk about those immigrants who are here illegally? Try “undocumented immigrants” rather than “illegals,” “aliens” and the highly-charged term “anchor baby.” There wasn't an explanation included on this one, but it’s worth noting that Tea Party Republican Sen. Marco Rubio opted against using the term “illegal immigrant” at Monday’s press conference announcing bipartisan immigration reform.

-- Use the phrase “earned legal status” instead of “pathway to citizenship.” The reasoning? That could “denote getting in front of the line to get citizenship, – this is not true. Most Republicans and Democrats, along with 70% of Americans, support a fair system by which those who are undocumented can come forward, register with the government, pass a background check, pay a fine, learn English and get legal status first – that is earned legal status, not automatic citizenship.”

-- Talk about enforcing borders with “more border patrol, technology, and building a fence where it makes sense.” Avoid phrases like “send them all back”, “electric fence” and “build a wall along the entire border.”

-- Point out that amnesty means “to pardon without penalty” rather than equating amnesty with earning legal status. Also, “don’t characterize all Hispanics as undocumented and all undocumented as Hispanics.”

-- You can still stick it to President Obama by noting he didn’t propose immigration reform for five years, and talk about issues you support within immigration reform. But try not to focus on amnesty as “a tenant of immigration reform.” Oh, and “don't use President Reagan's immigration reform as an example applicable today” since “that legislation was true amnesty.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.