The Biden administration wants to root out and eliminate what it believes to be an offensive word from every federal law.
The immigration bill President Joe Biden is sending Congress aims to appease progressives and illegal immigrants who want to be called something more pleasing to the ear than the current federal definition.
The word “alien” has peppered laws concerning those who are not American citizens since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Act.
“The bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word ‘alien’ to ‘noncitizen’ in our immigration laws,” a Biden transition team news release stated.
One advocate for illegal immigrants is thrilled according to CNN, which noted “the symbolic significance is huge.”
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“The language change on the first day of this administration, with Kamala Harris the daughter of immigrants, to me it’s not just symbolic … it’s foundational,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, an illegal immigrant himself who runs an organization called Define American.
“How we describe people really sticks. It affects how we treat them,” he said. “How we talk about immigrants shapes the policies. It frames what are the issues really at stake here. It acknowledges that we’re talking about human beings and families.”
Former President Donald Trump used the word “alien” earlier this month when talking about border policies during a visit to Texas, according to a transcript of his remarks.
“[A]liens released at the border remain at large in the country and do not return home. They won’t go home. And you rarely find them. It’s very tough to find them. So we have aliens released in our country, many of whom are serious criminals. And we’ve stopped that. Don’t ever start that process again,” Trump said at the time.
As Biden unveiled proposals to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Vargas told CNN the change in symbolism was as welcome as the change in policy.
“We were in the Trump administration the perennial boogeyman,” Vargas said. “Whenever Trump was in trouble, he started talking about the ‘illegals’ and talking about the border.”
“Language has power. And I think we saw that in the Trump administration, how it used dehumanizing terms and how it debased language and in turn debased people,” Vargas said. “If you call them ‘alien,’ of course you’re going to put them in jail, of course you’re going to lock them up, of course you’re not going to care that you’re separating little kids from their parents.”
California and New York City have already removed the term from their laws and codes.
The word kicked up a fuss in 2018 when Twitter initially cracked down on tweets from the Center for Immigration Studies that contained the phrase “illegal alien” before later relenting.
That drew a response from Hans von Spakovsky and Ashley Vaughan in an Op-Ed for the Daily Signal.
“In recent years, those on the progressive left has decided to censor terms that, despite being accurate and legally correct, do not meet their views of the prevailing political orthodoxy,” they wrote.
“They prefer terms such as ‘undocumented immigrant’ that are intended to disguise the illegality of aliens who cross our borders without permission. The difference in meaning between these terms is actually crucial when understanding and correctly discussing different types of immigration.”