Top Democrat on Judiciary panel asks members not to say ‘illegal immigrant’

WASHINGTON—During opening statements for the first House Judiciary Committee hearing addressing comprehensive immigration reform, the top ranking Democrat on the committee urged his fellow members and the witnesses present to avoid using the phrase "illegal immigrant" during the daylong proceedings.

"I hope no one uses the term 'illegal immigrants' here today," said Committee Ranking Member John Conyers of Michigan. "Our citizens are not illeg—the people in this country are not illegal. They are out of status. They're new Americans that are immigrants, and I think we can forge a path to citizenship that will be able to pass muster."

Tuesday's hearing is the first step in what's expected to be a complicated, months-long process, which will give members an opportunity to hear testimonies from a variety of experts on the issue.

A bipartisan group of eight senators last week unveiled a set of principles that they hope will serve as a blueprint for the bill in the Senate, while the House is working on its own version. Supporters of the issue hope to have a bill ready for a vote by summer.