Refugees?

I was listening to C-SPAN on the way into work and one of the callers had an interesting question: why are the people suffering in New Orleans being called “refugees” in the press when people in Florida suffering from hurricane damage aren’t?

I checked out the Wall Street Journal this morning and sure enough, there was that word. Checked the Washington Post, same thing. Was the caller being overly sensitive? Maybe. Was he reading some racial connotation into the use of the word? Probably. But it may also be that the press has been sloppy in how it uses words. Usually you see the word “refugee” in the context of someone fleeing another country from religious or political persecution. The people in New Orleans aren’t running from some dictator, they’re from here. They’re just unfortunate enough to be too poor or too ill to get out of the way of the storm in time.