April 25, 2014

Messaging Matters in Upcoming Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform

This week we are likely to see the first drafts of potential immigration reform come from the Senate. The Hispanic Leadership Network has release a short list of dos and don’ts in regards to immigration messaging. I believe this is a great start and a smart way to facilitate respectful and responsible dialogue in regards to upcoming immigration reform bills. Below is the memo that was released, you can also view the document here.

Immigration Reform

Suggested Messaging Dos and Don’ts of Immigration Reform

Conservatives have always embraced the American Dream. We celebrate the fact that we

are a nation of immigrants who have come to our country in search of opportunity and a

chance at a better future through hard work. Those are part of the guiding principles by

which we should view immigration reform, not the negative tone and harsh rhetoric that

has hurt conservatives in the past. Below are some suggested tonally sensitive messaging

points when discussing immigration proposals.


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



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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