The Biden administration directed immigration officials Tuesday to use “more inclusive language” in how it refers to noncitizens, multiple outlets report, part of a broader effort by the Biden White House to take a more welcoming position toward immigrants and erase the Trump administration’s more hostile stance.

President Joe Biden signs several immigration executive orders at the White House on February 02, … [+] 2021. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Key Facts

Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) head Tracy Renaud reportedly directed officials to overhaul their language in all official documents, outreach efforts and other communications, in a memo first reported by Axios and confirmed by BuzzFeed News.

Suggested terminology swaps reportedly include using “noncitizen” or “undocumented noncitizen” instead of “alien” or “illegal alien,” and referring to the “integration” of immigrants into society instead of “assimilation,” which has been criticized as racist.

Though an official legal term, “alien” has been decried by immigration advocates as “dehumanizing,” BuzzFeed notes, with University of Denver law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández telling the outlet “it’s offensive to describe people using the same word that conjures images of two-headed Martian invaders.”

The Trump administration directed officials to use the term “illegal aliens” instead of “undocumented” in 2018, and was criticized for using other immigration-related terms that are considered offensive like “chain migration.”

President Joe Biden has also pushed to replace “alien” with “noncitizen” in federal immigration laws in his proposed immigration reform bill.

USCIS has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Chief Critic

Biden’s proposal to erase the “alien” terminology from federal documents has drawn criticism on the right. “The term ‘alien’ is precise, accurate, and in no way offensive. To suggest otherwise is to suspend reality and is not a serious or reasonable position,” Trump-era USCIS official Robert Law wrote in a January blog post for the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limiting immigration.

What To Watch For

Biden and congressional Democrats are expected to unveil the final text of his immigration reform bill this week, according to NBC News, after the president sent his proposed bill to Congress on Inauguration Day. The legislation is expected to include a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other immigrants, as well as other measures like reforms to family-based immigration and asylum.

Key Background

Biden has put a strong emphasis on immigration and reversing the Trump administration’s more hardline policies in his first weeks in office. The president got rid of former President Donald Trump’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, reversed a Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers, plans to increase the number of refugee admissions and terminated an emergency declaration that enabled funding for the border wall, among other measures. The Biden administration has also taken a more positive stance toward undocumented immigrants, with measures like repealing a plan to exclude them from the Census count and announcing federal immigration authorities will not conduct arrests by Covid-19 vaccination sites.

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