Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a leading member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” pushing immigration reform, has taken to using the term “undocumented” to describe illegal aliens. The term, which is not always accurate, is common on the left and frequently mocked on the right.
During his charm offensive this weekend, in which he appeared on a record seven Sunday news programs to push his forthcoming immigration plan, Rubio called illegal aliens “undocumented” on a number of occasions (emphasis added, below).
On CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, for example, Rubio said: “If you are undocumented here now, if you are illegally in the U.S., you can’t even apply for this until these plans are in place and they begin to implement them.”
During his appearance on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Rubio told guest host Jonathan Karl: “While you’re doing all of these enforcement mechanisms, what do you do with the millions of people who are undocumented?”
Also, during his spot on Meet The Press with David Gregory, Rubio described the “Gang of Eight” plan as follows: “What it does is it creates a way for us to address the millions of people that are here undocumented in a way that’s compassionate, but also, in a way that’s responsible.”
The institutional left has been trying to get people in media and politics to stop using the accurate terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant,” and replace them with the term “undocumented worker” or “undocumented immigrant” for a long time.
As this reporter uncovered back in December 2010, the Society of Professional Journalists “diversity committee” was seeking to “inform and sensitize” reporters about how “offensive” the term “illegal immigrant” was for Hispanics.
SPJ diversity committee member Leo Laurence launched a campaign at the time to encourage the Associated Press to change its rules, which many reporters regard as authoritative.
The AP stood up for its accurate description of illegal immigrants at the time, with AP deputy standards editor David Minthorn saying: “The AP Stylebook created its entry on ‘illegal immigrant’ in 2004, in response to renewed debate over border security and the enforcement of immigration laws after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Together, the terms describe a person who resides in a country unlawfully by residency or citizenship requirements. Alternatives like undocumented worker, illegal alien or illegals lack precision or may have negative connotations. Illegal immigrant, on the other hand, is accurate and neutral for news stories.”
The AP has since caved to the pressure, and changed its stylebook. Earlier this month, as Breitbart News’ John Nolte noted, the AP dropped the term “illegal immigrant,” a move that Nolte points out means the “left wins another battle in the language war.”
Whatever his broader goal, Rubio is unlikely to impress friends in the conservative media by adopting the language of the left. Back when Laurence was using his SPJ position to push the language change, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said in a lengthy segment where he criticized Laurence and SPJ president Hagit Limor: “I don’t have any problem labeling people ‘illegal aliens’ when they come into this country without proper documentation. I think that’s the accurate thing to do, the no spin thing to do.”
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, who would go on to found the Twitter monitoring website Twitchy.com, said at the time in response to Laurence’s campaign: “It’s a farce to call someone an ‘undocumented worker’ who is full of fake, fraudulent documents and that is usually the case with many of the suspected illegal immigrants that these stories refer to.”
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) recently pleaded with fellow lawmakers during a congressional committee hearing earlier this year to not use the term “illegal immigrant.” In response to that, Michelle Fields of Pajamas Television said on Fox News that “these are Democrats doing what they do. They try to redefine words to silence opposition.”
In 2003, Alan Colmes brought a San Francisco Democratic politician onto Hannity & Colmes on the Fox News Channel to argue, with Colmes, that “illegal immigrant” was as bad as using the “n” word racial slur.
Sean Hannity fought back against Colmes’ and the left’s language war in that segment, calling such descriptions “insane.”
When asked which term his boss thinks is the correct term, “illegal alien” or “undocumented worker,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant declined to answer over the course of several emails.
However, in a quote he gave to Breitbart News for a previous story, Conant used the term “undocumented.”
In that quote, a response to an analysis by the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff that estimated the “Gang of Eight” plan would increase entitlement spending by trillions of dollars, Conant called illegal immigrants “undocumented immigrants.”