The Department of Justice has implemented an immigration order from President Joe Biden in a regulatory memo prohibiting the word “alien” by federal immigration judges.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on July 27 that a senior DOJ official had circulated a written directive to the 539 immigration judges across the country that prohibits federal employees from using the terms” ‘alien’ or ‘illegal alien’ to describe migrants.”
The nation’s judges are commanded to “use language that is consistent with our character as a nation of opportunity and of welcome.”
The memorandum instructs judges to use “respondent, applicant, petitioner, beneficiary, migrant, noncitizen, or non-U.S. citizen” as substitute terms.
In place of “undocumented alien” or “illegal alien,” judges are told to use “undocumented noncitizen, undocumented non-U.S. citizen, or undocumented individual” instead.
As provided in the “definitions” set out in section 101 (A3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the term “alien” has a distinct meaning: “The term ‘alien’ means any person, not a citizen or national of the United States.”
Other federal laws and regulations use the term “alien” to refer to a person who may be removed from the U.S. instead of citizens and foreign nationals.
That legal definition is no longer allowed by the Biden administration in federal immigration practice.
The memorandum uses journalism standards rather than federal law as the basis for the terminology changes. The directive cites the Associated Press’s 2013 change in reporting standards prohibiting the use of “illegal immigrant” as authoritative for federal courts. The only exception allowed for federal immigration judges is when they are “quoting a statute, regulation, legal opinion, court order, or settlement agreement.”
Through other executive orders and regulatory changes, the Biden White House has taken further steps to prohibit the use of “alien” and “illegal immigrant” by federal officials throughout all levels of government.
Biden has also requested Congress to enact legislation changing the terminology used in existing federal statutes.
This latest immigration policy change comes as deportation orders from immigration judges have dropped significantly, and illegal border crossings are increasing steadily.