Why Changing the Language of Immigration Matters

In the last few years, federal, state, and local governments have labored to remove the term “illegal alien” from official documents and replace it with “undocumented noncitizen.” At a time of great instability in our nation, this may seem to rational people like fiddling while Rome burns. It is actually a strategic move to further diminish our border security and bring even more chaos to America.

The most recent example took place in New York, where Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation mandating the term “alien” in state statutes be replaced with “noncitizen” at the behest of Democratic lawmakers in Albany.  

A legislative memo attached to the bill said that the Empire State henceforth “will match the language anticipated to be in federal codes and demonstrate respect and humanity to its immigrant population.”

There is a lot of cryptic, Orwellian verbiage in that word salad. “The language anticipated to be in federal codes?” What does the New York state government know about the federal government’s future actions that we don’t? It sounds like collusion is underway to achieve a collective partisan agenda. Currently, the U.S. code uses “alien” when referring to foreign nationals.

“Demonstrate respect and humanity to its immigrant population?” Notice the attempt to conflate those who broke our laws to be here with those who complied with our laws. If immigration law breakers not only face no consequences for their actions, but also benefit from government efforts to treat them with the utmost respect and humanity, then there is incentive, not deterrence, for more to do the same. That is a roadmap to dystopia.

The well-financed anti-borders movement has long sought to eliminate the term “illegal alien” from the national lexicon. According to their logic, use of the term amounts to practicing “otherism,” a newspeak word straight from the halls of academia that has come to mean the exclusion of people based on their perceived digressions from social norms. This is pure agitprop meant to shame opponents into submission. 

Terms like “undocumented noncitizen” are euphemisms and far less legally accurate than “illegal alien.” The term “immigrant” also has a very precise meaning in the law. While the Left will argue that illegal aliens’ presence in the country is no crime, their entry into the country is.

Washington is using the permanent bureaucracy to change the lexicon of immigration. In July 2021, a White House directive to the Department of Justice ordered immigration judges to “use language that is consistent with our character as a nation of opportunity and of welcome.” Put simply, immigration judges are no longer allowed to use the terms “alien” or “illegal alien” in their legal opinions.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a similar ban, also declaring that “alien” and “illegal alien” would no longer be used by its employees for internal or external communications.

Tracy Renaud, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, signed a memo in February 2021 urging “more inclusive language in the agency’s outreach efforts, internal documents and in overall communication with stakeholders, partners, and general public.”

While the memo does not have the force of law, it is emblematic of the Biden Administration’s aggressive moves to change the law’s language.

The ultimate target of this effort is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), our nation’s immigration law, which makes no reference to undocumented noncitizens. Instead, the law expressly uses the term “illegal alien” when referring to a person who has either illegally entered the United States or violated the terms of admission, such as overstaying a visa.

For example, in Title V of The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which added provisions to the INA, there are five references to “illegal alien” alone while the term “undocumented” is not mentioned once.

What is end game of this effort? While the radical Left marches in lockstep against U.S. sovereignty, more than half of Americans today believe there is an invasion taking place at our southern border. The only way to achieve the dream of a borderless utopia is to soften that opposition.

Changing the language is meant to normalize the act of entering the country illegally and not treat it as the violation it is. Once that change is accepted by the people, we will then have an America without borders not as a result of a dramatic conquest, but of apathy and indifference throughout the land. We must see this chicanery for what it is and resist it.

About Brian Lonergan

Brian Lonergan is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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