The English nursery rhyme was wrong. Not only do sticks and stones break our bones, but words can also hurt us. A lot. This is the lesson recently imparted by Tracy Renaud, the Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In a recent internal memorandum, Renaud is insisting on a new set of descriptors for the foreign citizens whom her agency serves, banishing into exile the word, “alien,” and the phrase, “illegal alien.” Henceforth, USCIS will use more inclusive language such as “noncitizen,” “undocumented noncitizen,” or “undocumented individual.” See the reports in Axios and BuzzFeed News.
This is a welcome change. For far too long, the exhausting and fearsome journey of U.S. immigration has been made more difficult by the hurtful taunt, “alien,” a word employed throughout the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Reportedly, the Biden Administration in its comprehensive reform bill would likewise excise the offensive word, and substitute “noncitizen” at every point where “alien” now appears in the INA, the U.S. Code, uncodified statutes, and all agency regulations and executive branch communications (something California did in 2015, while opting instead for “foreign national,” rather than “noncitizen”). In addition, we understand that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have likewise received instructions to remove the word, “alien,” from its template notices to employers that, following a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) investigation, “unauthorized aliens” have been found on the employer’s payroll.
Continue Reading Inclusive Immigration: USCIS Nixes “Alien” Terminology But Much More Must Be Done