Just days after President Joe Biden referred to an undocumented migrant accused of murdering a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia as an “illegal,” the debate over politically-correct language and immigration came to the New Hampshire Senate.

It happened during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 358, which would “invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses issued specifically to undocumented immigrants.” The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Bill Gannon (R-Sandown), expressed his dismay that Pennsylvania is considering issuing driver’s licenses to “illegal aliens.”

State Sen. Becky Whitley (D-Hopkinton) promptly took issue with what she felt was Gannon’s offensive language.

“I have to take umbrage with the use of the term ‘illegal alien,'” Whitley said. “It’s not a term that’s grounded in an individual’s humanity. An ‘individual who is undocumented’ is a more humane way to refer to these folks.”

Whitley went on to express her opposition to the legislation, calling it “punitive.”

The exchange was first reported by WMUR’s Adam Sexton.

Sen. Daryl Abbas (R-Salem) responded to Whitley’s complaint by noting that the term “illegal alien” is “the legally operative term” for people who are in the U.S. without permission. Abbas went on to note that the bill would only apply to driver’s licenses “issued exclusively to illegal immigrants,” not states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain the same licenses as legal residents.

Gannon followed up by arguing people in the U.S. illegally should not be able to drive legally in New Hampshire.

“In our state, if you’re an illegal alien — or whatever term you choose to use — people who enter the country illegally are not entitled to get a New Hampshire license,” Gannon set, setting off Whitley once more.

“Again, I think we have an obligation to use terms that recognize people’s humanity,” Whitley told her colleagues. As for Abbas’ argument that “illegal alien” is a legal term of art, Whitley pushed back, saying that the Biden administration has issued memos rejecting the use of the term.

“And I think we should follow that,” Whitley said.

During his State of the Union speech last week, President Biden called the alleged killer of Laken Riley “an illegal.” He was widely criticized by progressives for using the word, and when he was asked about it on MSNBC, Biden said, “I shouldn’t have used illegal… It’s ‘undocumented,'”

“I’m not going to treat any of these people with disrespect. Look, they built the country,” Biden added.

Asked about his apology during Monday’s trip to New Hampshire, White House Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton insisted Biden did no such thing.

“I want to be really clear about something: the president absolutely did not apologize. There was no apology anywhere in that conversation,” Dalton said. “He did not apologize. He used a different word.”

SB 358 was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with an Ought To Pass recommendation.

UPDATE: After this story published, Whitley took to social media to post the following:

“Language matters. I will always fight against dehumanizing language and center human dignity. The top official at Customs and Border Protection has said ‘We enforce our nation’s laws while also maintaining the dignity of every individual with whom we interact.’

“Dehumanization has fueled innumerable terrible acts in our history and almost always starts with language and the creation of an ‘enemy.’ Let’s not lose our ability to listen, and practice even a modicum of empathy, especially when we’re being told this language is harmful.”