US immigration agencies told to stop calling migrants aliens

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Joe Biden has officially ordered US immigration agencies to end the use of derogatory terms such as ‘illegal alien’ and ‘assimilation’, when referring to migrants. US immigration advocates have branded the terms ‘dehumanizing’. US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) have each issued new guidance to staff.


Acting head of ICE, Tae Johnson, and acting head of CBP, Troy Miller, each circulated a memo to staff outlining the updated language to be used for all external and internal communications, in accordance with the Biden administration’s instructions regarding US immigration terminology.

According to the new guidance, issued on April 19, the term ‘alien’ will be replaced with ‘noncitizen’ or ‘migrant’, while ‘illegal alien’ will be replaced by ‘undocumented citizen’ or ‘undocumented individual’ and ‘assimilation’ will be changed to ‘integration’.


Enforcing US laws

The memo circulated by acting CBP head, Troy Miller, said: “We enforce our nation’s laws while also maintaining the dignity of every individual with whom we interact. The words we use matter and will serve to further confer that dignity to those in our custody.”

Meanwhile, in a statement to CNN, ICE said that the agency is “adopting terminology to help rebuild public trust and reshape the agency image. The change reflects ICE’s commitment to treat everyone with whom we interact with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.”

Press releases previously issued by both agencies had referred to undocumented immigrants as ‘aliens’, terminology implemented by former US President Donald Trump. 

Back in February, reported that Biden had ‘instructed’ US immigration agents to use more ‘inclusive’ language when referring to migrants. The instruction was given ahead of wider White House efforts to adopt a more welcoming approach toward migrants following the anti-immigrant rhetoric spouted by Trump.

It seems the use of more inclusive language has now been made official. Biden has come under heavy fire recently over US immigration policy amid a perceived ‘crisis’ at the southern border with Mexico.


Immigrant rights advocates

Immigrant rights’ advocates have long criticized the use of the term ‘illegal alien’, often used by Trump during his infamous rallies, describing it as ‘dehumanizing slur’. Terminology used to describe migrants has divided opinion across the US, with top federal officials encouraging the use of derogatory terms, while some states have sought to ban them.

President Biden has actively taken steps to recognize the United States as a ‘nation of immigrants’, especially in his proposed US immigration reforms.

Biden is not alone in highlighting the language often used to characterize immigrants. Former US President George W. Bush recently urged Congress to tone down the ‘harsh rhetoric’ on immigration. 

Bush told CBS Sunday Morning: “I do want to say to Congress, please put aside all of the harsh rhetoric about immigration, please put aside trying to score political points on either side. I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system.” can help with US employment-based visas

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