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DHS officials urged to use ‘more inclusive language’ about immigrants, stop using ‘alien’

Dilma Aracely Riveria Hernandez Anderson
Posted at 11:41 AM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 13:41:09-05

The Biden administration is reportedly urging officials in the Department of Homeland Security to use more inclusive terms for immigrants in their internal and external communications.

The changes include using the word “noncitizen” instead of “alien,” and “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual” instead of “illegal alien,” according to Axios and other media.

The memo, seen by several news sites, is from acting director Tracy Renaud of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and encourages "more inclusive language in the agency's outreach efforts, internal documents and in overall communication with stakeholders, partners and the general public."

“Alien” is currently defined in U.S. statute as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States”, according to U.S. Code, which keeps track of terms and subject matter definitions for Congress. However, it has taken on derogatory meanings.

In a statement to FOX News, a USCIS spokesman said the changes in language do not apply to everything. "The guidance does not affect legal, policy or other operational documents, including forms, where using terms (such as applicant, petitioner, etc.) as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act would be the most appropriate."

The changes seem inline with an immigration reform bill proposed by the Biden administration, which seeks to replace terminology in U.S. immigration laws.

Included in the fact sheet for the proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, is a mention that the bill would remove the word “alien” from immigration laws and replace it with “noncitizen.” According to the fact sheet, the change “recognizes America as a nation of immigrants.”

The Associated Press stylebook, which helps define terms and usage for many journalists across dozens of media outlets, dropped the term “illegal immigrant” in 2013 and recommended against using the term “alien.” At the time, the AP said the word “illegal” should be used to describe an action, not a person.