LatinaLista — The day after Obama made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows, a fellow blogger sent an email and asked what I had written about Obama’s appearance on Univision’s Al Punto program with Jorge Ramos.
I replied, “Nothing.” In fact, I hadn’t even watched it. Why bother, I thought. He’s only going to deliver the same answers to the same questions: When will there be an immigration reform bill? Healthcare for undocumented immigrants?
Yet, after scanning a partial transcript of the Ramos-Obama interview, it turns out there was one question that Ramos asked him that strayed from the usual script. It challenged the President to explain himself — and it had nothing to do with healthcare.
The question had to do with why the President was changing course and using the term “illegal immigrant” instead of “undocumented immigrants,” the term he did use during the campaign.
(Partial transcript courtesy of Immigration Impact)
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…
Well, keep in mind…
…those who criticize immigrants.
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 often times in a negative way.
The President’s exact quote that night was:
There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants…
Looking at what the President told Ramos during his interview and reading the line from his speech above, it seems pretty obvious, now, that Obama was using the language best understood by all those Joe Wilsons out there.
From Wilson’s response, it’s a language that isn’t just understood but connotes a much deeper and negative meaning that triggers spontaneous vitriolic reaction — and which probably is best left to be used in speeches in the halls of Congress where more restraint and civility are practiced than in any town hall meeting or online forum.
Can there be any further doubt just how destructive these two words are?