Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

GOP Group Urges ‘Tonally Sensitive’ Immigration Messaging

House Republicans on Monday received a list of immigration messaging “dos and don’ts” from the Hispanic outreach arm of a top GOP super PAC, with recommendations focused on urging members to use “tonally sensitive” rhetoric, regardless of their position on the issue.

The Hispanic Leadership Network, affiliated with the American Action Network, says in its emailed memo that conservatives should avoid the “negative tone and harsh rhetoric” that has hurt them in the past as well as make it clear that they celebrate America as a nation of immigrants who have come here “in search of opportunity and a chance at a better future through hard work.” The memo then lays out a list of messaging recommendations House Republicans should follow when discussing immigration overhaul legislation and illegal immigration generally.

Implicit in the memo is the concern that Republicans might further alienate Hispanic voters with insensitive rhetoric as the debate over immigration heats up after Monday’s unveiling in the Senate of a bipartisan framework for legislation. President Barack Obama is expected to speak on the issue Tuesday during a stop in Las Vegas.

Here’s the Hispanic Leadership Network memo:

When engaging in conversation or doing an interview on immigration reform:
Do acknowledge that “Our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it”
Don’t begin with “We are against amnesty”
Note: Most everyone is against amnesty and this is interpreted as being against any reform.

When talking about a solution for the millions here without documentation who could qualify to get in line first with a temporary visa, then legal residence and finally citizenship:
Do use the phrase “earned legal status”
Don’t use the phrase “pathway to citizenship”
Note: This has a different meaning and can 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.

When addressing securing our borders:
Do use the wording “enforcement of our borders includes more border patrol, technology, and building a fence where it makes sense”
Don’t use phrases like “send them all back”, “electric fence”, “build a wall along the entire border”

When talking about immigrants:
Do use “undocumented immigrant” when referring to those here without documentation
Don’t use the word “illegals” or “aliens”
Don’t use the term “anchor baby”

When addressing amnesty and earned legal status:
Do acknowledge that the true meaning of amnesty is to pardon without any penalty
Don’t label earned legal status as amnesty
Don’t characterize all Hispanics as undocumented and all undocumented as Hispanics

When broadly addressing reforms:
Do acknowledge that President Obama broke his promise and failed to propose any immigration reform for five years, while using this issue as a political wedge
Do talk about the issues you support like overhauling the bureaucratic visa system, creating a viable temporary worker program, a workable e-verify system, and border security
Don’t focus on amnesty as a tenet of immigration reform
Don’t use President Reagan’s immigration reform as an example applicable today
Note: That legislation was true amnesty; in addition, border security, fixing our visa system, and a temporary worker program were parts of the reform which were never implemented.

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