Hispanic Group to GOP on Immigration: Avoid Saying 'Illegals,' 'Amnesty,' 'Reagan'

A moderate Republican Hispanic group in favor of comprehensive immigration reform wrote a memo to GOP lawmakers urging them to watch their tone.

The Hispanic Leadership Network wrote the memo to GOP lawmakers on the day a bipartisan group of Senators announced a framework for a comprehensive immigration reform deal. The note encouraged Republicans not to use words like "illegals," "anchor babies," "Reagan," and "amnesty" if they want to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The advice came on the eve of President Barack Obama's announcement of his immigration reform proposal Tuesday. 

In the memo, the group urges Republicans to acknowledge that "our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it." The group believes saying things like "we are against amnesty" makes people think Republicans will be opposed to any immigration reform plan. 

In addition, the group also believes Republicans should use "earned legal status" instead of "pathway to citizenship" when discussing the various forms of amnesty that may be included in the bill. 

Regarding border security, the group advises Republicans to say "enforcement of our borders includes more border patrol, technology, and building a fence where it makes sense," while avoiding phrases like "send them all back," "electric fence," and "build a wall along the entire border."

When talking about illegal immigrants, the group urges Republicans to use the liberal term "undocumented immigrants" instead of using the legally correct terms "illegals" or "aliens." They also advise the GOP not to use the term "anchor babies" to refer to children born in the United States to illegal immigrants. 

The group also suggests Republicans can attempt to win political points by noting that "President Obama broke his promise and failed to propose any immigration reform for five years, while using this issue as a political wedge."

The Hispanic Leadership Network also wrote that Republicans should not use "President Reagan's immigration reform as an example applicable today." The group is referring to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, also referred to as "Simpson-Mazzoli."

As the group acknowledges, "that legislation was true amnesty." But while the amnesty was ultimately implemented, parts of the bill dealing with "border security, fixing our visa system, and a temporary worker program" were not. In addition, Hispanics did not become more Republican after IRCA's passage. 

Critics of comprehensive immigration today feel what happened after IRCA will again occur with an immigration reform deal; liberal policies will be enacted, more conservative policies will not be implemented, and more Hispanics will become Democrats. 

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

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