The Corner


‘Undocumented Noncitizen’ Is Officially Here

I’m sure people have used that phrase over the years as a parody of where immigration euphemisms were headed, and now, thanks to the Biden administration, it has officially arrived.

From the Axios afternoon email (and here’s a link to the story):

The Biden administration is urging officials to use more inclusive terms for immigrants, including replacing the word “alien” with “noncitizen,” according to an internal email scooped by Axios’ Stef Kight.

Why it matters: This is a more welcoming immigration stance than the Trump administration, which referred to unauthorized immigrants as “illegal aliens” and described border crossings as an “invasion.”

Other changes include using “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual” rather than “illegal alien” and “integration or civic integration” instead of “assimilation.”

Between the lines: An agency can issue a memo directing officials to use certain words over others in official communications, but they have less leeway on the words they use in legal settings.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services email specifies that “noncitizen” is to be used rather than “alien,” except when citing a statute or regulation or certain immigration forms.

Then, the legal term for someone not born in the U.S. or born in certain U.S. territories — “alien” — needs to be used.

The bottom line: Immigration advocates will likely applaud the changes, and hardliners will not.


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