The Corner

Have the Feds Dumped the Phrase ‘Unaccompanied Alien Children’?

Word is spreading that federal officials may have banned the phrase “Unaccompanied Alien Children” from the federal lexicon because the term “alien” inappropriately identifies the illegal-immigrant children flooding across the border.

An e-mail received by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, shared with National Review Online, discusses the change. 

“It has been requested that in correspondence regarding unaccompanied children, They not be referred to as UACs,” reads the e-mail, sent to federal officials. “The term UAC should not be used in official correspondence.”

Instead, the e-mail says federal officials must identify the illegal-immigrant children as “unaccompanied children,” in lower case. The e-mail explains that the order to change the wording was briefed earlier in the day on June 4, 2014, during a “command and staff meeting.”

Attempts to reach ICE officials for comment were unsuccessful. 

Two days before the June 4 e-mail, a presidential memorandum titled “Presidential Memorandum — Response to the Influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children Across the Southwest Border” was sent to the heads of executive departments and agencies. But after the June 4 e-mail’s order to abstain from using the word “alien,” the White House published a fact sheet that only identified the illegal minors as “unaccompanied children” and “unaccompanied children from Central America.” In a press release from ICE more than a week after the e-mail, ICE referred to the illegal migrants as “unaccompanied children,” while also mentioning “alien smugglers,” “undocumented aliens,” and “illegal aliens” to refer to older illegal immigrants in the same press release. In the written testimony of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson for a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on June 24, he only described the illegal immigrant children as “unaccompanied children” and “unaccompanied minors.”  Johnson mentioned “alien smuggling organizations,” but did not use the word “alien” in connection with any children illegally crossing the border. 

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, received the forwarded e-mail from an ICE official and estimates that several hundred federal officials, if not more, received the message. She says she recognizes several names on the recipients list, including unit chiefs and others in supervisory or managerial positions.

Activists from groups such as La Raza have long agitated against using language they deem offensive to illegal immigrants, and journalists have been pressured to change their terms by such advocates.

In 2013, the Associated Press Stylebook, a guidebook used by newspapers nationwide, eliminated the term “illegal immigrant” from its pages. “People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally,” the stylebook for news reporters reads. “For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.”  The guide also gives this direction: “Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.”


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