The Biden administration has directed immigration enforcement agencies to stop using references to immigrants that were commonplace under the Trump administration, according to the Washington Post on Monday.
In copies of memos sent to department heads at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection on Monday that were obtained by the Post, the Biden administration details the change in rhetoric that aims to reverse former President Trump’s hardline immigration policies.
The Post reported that changes include “noncitizen or migrant” instead of “alien,” “undocumented” or “illegal,” and “integration” in lieu of “assimilation” when referring to immigrants.
Top officials in CBP and ICE make clear in the memos that under the Biden administration, language that is more inclusive is a top priority.
“As the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, we set a tone and example for our country and partners across the world,” CBP’s top official, Troy Miller, said in his memo, according to the Post. “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 separate memo, ICE acting director Tae Johnson expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the agency will ensure “agency communications use the preferred terminology and inclusive language” in response the guidance set by the Biden administration.
The changes in rhetoric regarding immigrants take effect immediately.
The new guidance follows a similar directive from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes green cards and citizenship applications, regarding agency communications such as internal correspondence and public information.
The use of “alien” and “illegal” has commonly been used by Border Patrol agents and ICE in news releases, social media and memos to refer to immigrants taken into custody after entering the country illegally.
Noncitizens include immigrants who are in the country without authorization, in addition to millions of legal permanent residents and visitors arriving on visas for work or for tourism.
President Biden appeared to preview the change in rhetoric during his first day in office, when he proposed the elimination of the term “alien” from federal immigration law in the citizenship bill he sent to Congress. The White House said that using “noncitizen” instead of “alien” recognizes the U.S. as “a nation of immigrants” — a change in tone compared to the Trump administration that removed the phrase from the mission statement of CIS.
Trump, who touted himself as the “president of law and order,” took on hardline immigration policies that the Biden administration has worked to reverse. Under the Trump administration, ICE was permitted to arrest anyone in the country illegally and the expansion of the border wall was a key priority of the former president.
The Biden administration’s order comes amid the President grappling with a surge of migrants at the border that has become a talking point among Republicans, who embraced Trump’s hardline immigration policies yet fail to acknowledge how policies, such as the previous administration’s family separation policy, has contributed to what they deem as Biden’s so-called “border crisis.” Biden and administration officials have repeatedly stressed that the “border is closed.”
The President has also come under fire in the past week from refugee advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers for initially signing an order last week that would keep a Trump-era limit on U.S. refugee admissions in place for the fiscal year. Biden, however, has since committed to increasing the nation’s refugee cap, but did not provide a specific number by which the cap would be raised.