Is Biden admin right to stop ICE using terms like ‘illegal alien?’


Fact Box

  • Monday, April 19, 2021, the Biden administration ordered a change in Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection terminology of terms like “illegal alien” and “assimilation” to “undocumented noncitizen” and “integration.” 
  • Both CBP’s top official Troy Miller and ICE’s acting director Tae Johnson defend the order saying “the words we use matter” to ensure inclusivity. Rep. Nanette Barragan said the switch would be a positive change from “negative rhetoric” from the Trump administration.
  • Trump-era USCIS official Robert Law called the term “alien” precise, accurate, and not offensive. lists “alien” as a person who lives in a foreign country of which they are not a citizen. 
  • According to Statista, there were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the US in 2019 with most coming from Mexico. 
  • There were a total of 44.9 million immigrants in the US in 2019. That year, 28.4 million were a part of the US workforce.

Andrew (Yes)

Words matter and the language we use has consequences. Sadly it's no surprise that we face a sharp uptick in violence against Asian Americans following four years of coarse language and exaggerated racial language from former President trump. Fortunately, the Biden administration understands the importance of proper speech and is taking steps toward creating a more peaceful atmosphere. Many of the people affected by this policy have come to this country for economic opportunity or in many cases to seek asylum from dangerous conditions in their homelands. These individuals have faced harsh conditions at home and often a long and dangerous journey to arrive at the border. Using less divisive language, we can begin to see the humanity in these people and look for real and humane solutions to a major problem that cannot be solved with overpriced and ineffective walls.

The Biden administration's policy of using more inclusive language tracks with where the nation is on this topic. In classrooms and businesses worldwide, people are paying attention to the microaggressions, biases, and other callous language that is no longer acceptable in modern society. The Biden administration shows that it is in touch with the population by removing these decisive and incendiary terms.

A major part of candidate Biden's platform was unity, and respect is a major factor in bringing people together. By changing this policy regarding language, the Biden administration signifies its desire to respect all people and treat them with dignity. Surely we can all agree this is a starting place for bringing disparate groups together.


Stephanie (No)

The Biden administration is off to a politically correct start by most recently ordering ICE and US Border Patrol to no longer use 'terms such as 'alien, illegal alien, and assimilation'' regarding those who reside in the country unlawfully. However, the term 'illegal alien' is fitting for those who have crossed the border in such a way: they broke the law and, by definition, are native citizens elsewhere, not yet legally belonging to the United States. 

Not only is the existing terminology protected speech, but the word 'alien' is 'the official definition of noncitizen in federal laws.' It remains a necessary descriptor, as the 'inclusive language' alternative 'noncitizen' already encompasses several groups of immigrants, including those in the country on a green card or work visa.

Even more concerning is the impact of illegal immigration on citizens throughout the nation, such as unpaid taxes, lost job opportunities, healthcare and education costs, and crime. Instead of Biden demonstrating his leadership over the American people, the recent requirement only benefits illegal immigrants, including those who may be considering immigration to the US, viewing it as a welcoming place of refuge. The situation at the border is indeed a crisis, and, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy commented, 'These backwards priorities are only making the situation worse.'

The term 'alien' in its previous context was not used to belittle those who have come to the United States by means of legal immigration, yet it is a suitable term for those doing so illegally. However, the Biden administration insists that the change in verbiage is more 'humane' toward illegal immigrants, thus showing sympathy for serious crimes against the nation instead of for the citizens to whom this administration answers.

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