ICE, CBP stop using terms like ‘illegal alien’, ‘assimilation’

The heads of the two U.S. immigration enforcement agencies were directed by the Biden administration to use words such as “noncitizen” and “integration” instead of “alien” and “assimilation” as part of its effort to use immigration terms seen as more humane, according to memos obtained first by The Washington Post.

Troy Miller and Tae Johnson, the acting heads of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Monday issued separate memos to staff detailing the new changes regarding the use of certain immigration terms in internal and external communications, such as public statements.

Instead of “alien,” the memos instruct employees of both agencies to use “migrant” or “noncitizen”; “undocumented” rather than “illegal”; and “integration” instead of “assimilation,” according to The Post. The memos also tell CBP and ICE employees to use “noncitizenship” instead of “alienage”.

Advocates have long called for the retirement of these terms, which they argue are dehumanizing to the people they describe, and the adoption of a more civil tone.

“As the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, we set a tone and example for our country and partners across the world,” CBP’s Miller said in his memo. “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.”

ICE’s Johnson spoke similarly in his memo, saying, “In response to the vision set by the Administration, ICE will ensure agency communications use the preferred terminology and inclusive language.”

Officials, according to The Post, said the changes take effect immediately. The officials also acknowledge that they may need to use the terms in “legal or operational documents,” such as when filling out required forms.

MORE ON THE BORDER: Biden calls border surge a ‘crisis’ for the first time

Among those classified as noncitizens, according to the newspaper, are immigrants who are in the United States illegally, as well as millions of legal permanent residents—also known as green-card holders—and visitors arriving on work and tourist visas.

These changes come amid a record-breaking number of migrants—especially thousands of unaccompanied children—illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border over the past few months, as well as the resulting crisis that has seen overcrowded migrant detention facilities with poor accommodations.

MORE ON THE BORDER: Sara Carter: The border crisis is ‘astounding’

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.

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