Department of Homeland Security officials have been directed to stop using those terms and replace them with "noncitizen."

Por Alma Sacasa
Febrero 17, 2021
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In his immigration reform bill, President Joe Biden proposed removing the term "alien" from U.S. immigration laws and replacing it with the word "noncitizen." Department of Homeland Security officials have also been directed to stop using the terms "alien" and "illegal alien" when referring to people who aren't U.S. citizens, in an effort to change the immigration terminology.

"This change is designed to encourage more inclusive language in the agency's outreach efforts, internal documents, and in overall communication with stakeholders, partners, and the general public," Joe Sowers, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson, said in a statement.

Credit: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, a University of Denver law professor, told BuzzFeed News that the new phrasing is very significant, but still won't stop the deportation of immigrants. "Removing 'alien' ... won't stop ICE from deporting anyone or make life easier for people who aren't US citizens," he said. "Still, it is important to remove the word 'alien' because it's offensive to describe people using the same word that conjures images of two-headed Martian invaders."

This isn't the first time government officials have tried to change the immigration phrasing. In 2015, former California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that removed the word "alien" from California legal records, and a Colorado legislator attempted a similar move in 2019. Representative Joaquin Castro introduced a bill in 2019 to have it removed on a federal level. "The term 'alien' is used as a dehumanizing slur, and should be removed from the language in our statutes. This change might seem symbolic, but it's an important step to restore humanity after years of demonization," Castro said in a statement to NBC News.

The new bill will also seek to provide an eight-year path to citizenship to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, individuals with temporary protected status, and millions of others living in the United States without legal immigration status.