Having declared "words matter," President Barack Obama's has drummed up quite a bit of attention in the blogosphere over his use of the term "illegal immigrant" during his speech to Congress earlier this month. The president strayed from using "undocumented immigrant" as he usually does, drawing the attention of immigrant advocates.
Groups such as Immigration Impact and Latina Lista are asking whether the subtle shift in language represents a change in commitment.
Jorge Ramos of Univision asked the president about his use of terminology during Obama's Sept. 20 media blitz.
Jorge Ramos: Now, in your speech to Congress you used the words “illegal immigrants.” However, and I remember very clearly, during the campaign you were very careful to use the words “undocumented immigrants”. Why the change? You said words matter. Now, why do you choose to use the language that is being used by ... those who criticize immigrants.Frankly, President Obama is in a no-win situation. Words like illegal immigrant and undocumented immigrant carry quite a bit of political baggage. And as we in the newspaper business have learned, whatever term he uses will be used against him by one side or the other.
President Obama: Well, keep in mind what I was addressing. I was addressing misinformation by the other side that was engaging in scare tactics. So I was essentially quoting them. I was saying, “for those of you who are saying that illegal immigrants are going to be covered under this plan,” I said that’s not true. Right? So I’m using their language because I was addressing the misinformation that they are providing. And I was speaking directly to an audience, the American people, who because of this misinformation, I think actually were very responding oftentimes in a negative way.
-- (Translated transcript courtesy of Immigration Impact.)
It'll be interesting to watch how he addresses those in the country illegally from now on.