- The change was announced in memos from top CBP and ICE officials, which were shared with Insider.
- The term “alien” is to be replaced with “noncitizen or migrant,” and “illegal” with “undocumented.”
- Biden has pledged to make US immigration policy more humane.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden’s administration has told US immigration agencies to stop using terms like “illegal alien” when referring to undocumented migrants, according to memos shared with Insider.
On Monday, top officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were advised in memos that that their agencies would be replacing the term “alien” with “noncitizen or migrant” and “illegal” with “undocumented.”
The term “assimilation” will also change to “integration,” the memos said.
News of the changes were first reported by The Washington Post. US officials told the newspaper that the changes are effective immediately.
In one memo shared with Insider, Troy Miller, the top CBP official, said that words matter when referring to immigrants.
“As the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, we set a tone and example for our country and partners across the world,” he 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.”
In a second memo, Tae Johnson, the acting director of ICE, pledged to support Biden’s plan to humanize US border policy and protect human rights.
“In response to the vision set by the Administration, ICE will ensure agency communications use the preferred terminology and inclusive language,” he wrote.
The US has long been accused of violating the rights of migrants, especially unaccompanied children, who cross the border with Mexico, and Biden has pledged to change that.
That Biden wanted to eliminate terms like “illegal alien” has been common knowledge since the first days of his presidency. In January, Biden published a summary of his proposed immigration bill in which he said he planned to replace the word with “noncitizen,” as Insider’s Sarah Al-Arshani previously reported.
The US Code defines an “alien” as anyone who’s “not a citizen or national of the United States,” and a number of Republican Party figures have slammed the redesignation, calling it an example of extreme political correctness.
“We use the term ‘illegal alien’ because they’re here illegally,” Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted Monday.
“This kind of weakness and obsession with political correctness is why we’re having a crisis on the border in the first place.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, tweeted the same day: “President Biden is more concerned about Border Patrol’s vocabulary than he is about solving the border crisis. These backwards priorities are only making the situation worse.”
More than 171,000 migrants were taken into CBP custody last month – the highest number in a single month since 2006, Insider’s John Haltiwanger reported.