A top Biden-appointed immigration official issued a memo last week directing immigration judges to stop using the term “illegal aliens” to describe illegal aliens.
In a July 23 memo titled “Terminology,” Acting Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review Jean King directed immigration judges to instead use terms such as “undocumented noncitizen” and “undocumented individual.”
King also directed judges to stop using the term “unaccompanied alien child” to describe unaccompanied alien children, directing them to use terms such as “unaccompanied non-citizen child” and “unaccompanied non-U.S. citizen child.”
The memo references a pair of President Joe Biden’s executive orders and notes that neither uses the term “alien” or “illegal alien” to describe illegal aliens. It also points to two recent Supreme Court opinions in which the justices opted to substitute the term “noncitizen” for the statutory term “alien.”
The memo’s footnotes also reference the 2013 style-guide change by The Associated Press, which forbids the use of terms such as “illegal alien,” “an illegal,” “illegals,” and “undocumented.” It also points to a 2016 decision by the Library of Congress to stop using the term “illegal alien.”
“The phrase ‘illegal aliens’ has taken on a pejorative tone in recent years, and in response, some institutions have determined that they will cease to use it,” the Library of Congress decision stated. “After deliberation, the meeting participants determined that the heading Aliens will be revised to Noncitizens.”
King’s memo notes that the only exception for the new language mandate is when “when quoting a statute, regulation, legal opinion, court order, or settlement agreement.”
Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge and now a resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote that King’s directive set an “extremely sinister precedent.”
“None of these changes has any basis in law (or logic for what that matters),” Arthur wrote. “‘Noncitizen’ is not a word, at least not in a legal sense, because it includes ‘aliens’ who can be removed from the United States and non-citizen ‘nationals’ who cannot.”
Staff at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have already been barred from using the term “illegal alien,” according to The Washington Post and Axios respectively.
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act codified the term “alien” in 1952, defining it as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”