Biden regrets using "illegal" to describe immigrant in speech

U.S. President Biden departs Philadelphia International Airport for a campaign trip to Georgia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday said he regretted using the term "illegal" in a recent speech to describe an undocumented immigrant who allegedly murdered a student, which drew fire from Democrats and immigration advocates who see the word as dehumanizing.

During his State of the Union address on Thursday, Biden was goaded by Trump-allied Republican U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and went off script to address the case of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student from the U.S. state of Georgia, who was allegedly murdered last month by an undocumented immigrant who had been released on parole.

Republicans, who blame Biden and his administration's border policies for the deaths of Americans killed by illegal migrants, have seized on Riley's death as a symbol of Democrats' failure.

On Thursday night, as Biden walked to the podium for his address, Greene had thrust a button into his hand. During the speech, when Greene challenged him to say Riley's name, he took up the button and repeated her name, saying she was an innocent woman killed by "an illegal."

In an except of an interview with MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart scheduled to air on Saturday, Biden said, "I shouldn't have used illegal, it’s undocumented," he said. When asked if he regretted using the term, he said emphatically "yes."

When asked the same question on Friday, Biden had said, “technically he’s not supposed to be here."

Biden has slammed Republicans for tanking a tough bipartisan border bill because former President Donald Trump wants to keep immigration as a campaign issue.

On Saturday, Biden also drew a contrast with his Republican presidential rival Trump, who has echoed Adolf Hitler by saying migrants "poison the blood" of the nation.

"I'm not going to treat any, any, any of these people with disrespect. Look, they built the country. The reason our economy is growing. We have to control the border and more orderly flow, but I don't share his view at all," he said.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)