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What’s in a name?

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Immigration

Various terms have been used for people from other countries who want to build a life in the United States. Over time, those names have changed and evolved based on societal norms and a growing awareness of the roles immigrants play nationwide.

Longawaited changes

Acting leaders of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection recently put in place by the Biden administration have issued guidance in the form of two memos on specifically and commonly used immigration terminology. Staff members in the agency can no longer use the following language deemed dehumanizing:

  • Alien
  • Illegal alien
  • Assimilation

Those words will be replaced with:

  • Noncitizen/migrant
  • Undocumented noncitizen/individual
  • Integration

Repairing a tarnished image

The goal of the new terms is twofold, according to ICE. They want terminology that will help “rebuild public trust” while reshaping the agency’s image where all are treated with respect and dignity while still focusing on enforcing immigration law.

The news was heralded by immigrant rights advocates who felt that “illegal alien” was dehumanizing and akin to a slur. Many powerful federal officials would encourage the use as the terms were prevalent in the verbiage of the law, while several state and local governments were making efforts to ban it.

These changes coincide with a push by many to return the rhetoric to a more respectful tone that could be an essential step in the long-awaited quest for immigration reform.

Whether they are referred to as migrants or undocumented individuals, those seeking entry and those already living in the United States are entitled to a level of respect every human being deserves.