Opening the first immigration hearing of the new Congress, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee warned his colleagues not to use the term “illegal immigrant” as the debate goes on.

“I hope no one uses the term illegal immigrants here today. Our citizens are not — the people in this country are not illegal. They are are out of status. They are new Americans that are immigrants,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat.

As Congress begins the immigration debate, both sides are preparing for an emotionally charged fight, and language will be one of the battlegrounds.

Many immigrant-rights advocates object to the terms “illegal” and “alien,” saying that people cannot be deemed illegal, and that the word “alien” makes them sound inhuman. They argue the better terms are “undocumented migrants.”

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