Biden has recently informed DHS officials to focus on using “inclusive language” for describing individuals living within the United States illegally. One of his recommendations is to eliminate the term “alien” and replace it with “noncitizen” instead, per a recent immigration memo.
These changes can be attributed to the Biden administration’s attempts to paint itself as welcoming towards immigrants, at least relative to Trump’s administration, which would use “illegal aliens” when detailing security issues at the U.S. border.
Per Axios, an email was sent to USCIS, a subsidiary of DHS, detailing how the acting director, Tracy Renaud, has signed a memo promoting “more inclusive language” across the USCIS’s internal documents, outreach efforts, and “overall communication with stakeholders, partners and the general public.”
BuzzFeed News obtained the memo, which ordered immigration officials to cease referring to people as “illegal aliens,” “undocumented alien,” or “alien” in all external and internal communications. Instead, the term “undocumented individual” should be used.
Furthermore, the memo also discouraged the use of “assimilation,” and it suggested the term “integration” instead. In addition, the same memo also referred to individuals who apply for various benefits, including green cards, as “customers.”
In general, these changes in communication are not intended to have an impact on operational documents or forms; instead, the changes are perceived as little more than a makeover of messaging.
Through the continuation of language softening towards illegal immigration, the current administration likely hopes for the public’s opinion to shift on the matter, thereby softening public perception of open borders and illegal immigrants.
Additionally, the words being eliminated are technically teh most accurate terms used to describe these issues, as the term alien is within the U.S. Code itself, and it is oftentimes used in reference to the immigration system, along with relevant court rulings, to describe anyone who is not a citizen of the United States.
According to Robert Law, a former official of the Trump administration, “By statute, ‘alien’ literally means a person not a U.S. citizen or national … That is not offensive, and neither is ‘assimilation.”