ICE, CBP ordered to stop using ‘alien,’ ‘assimilation’
The heads of the two largest immigration enforcement agencies are expected on Monday to order its officials to stop using terms generally regarded as offensive by immigrants, like “illegal alien” and “assimilation.”
The orders to replace terminology will come in two nearly identical memos to be released by the acting heads of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Tae Johnson, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Troy Miller.
The memos were first reported by The Washington Post.
In the memos, Johnson and Miller list a series of terms to avoid and their preferred official substitutions.
“Illegal alien” is to be replaced by “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual,” and instead of “assimilation,” officers are expected to use “integration” or “civic integration,” for example.
The change comes as Biden officials battle what many immigration advocates see as a cultural problem in immigration enforcement agencies, where Trump-era rhetoric was widespread and coincided with reports of immigrant abuse.
It follows a similar change in February, when United States Citizenship and Immigration Services acting head Tracy Renaud issued a similar memo to that agency’s employees.
The memos make an exception for use of language when necessary in legal paperwork, since some of the terms are language used in existing statute.
“As needed and appropriate, CBP may use applicable terms defined in the Immigration Nationality Act in legal or operational documents, including when completing required forms, particularly where legally required or necessary to ensure the procedural rights of those whom CBP encounters,” reads the CBP memo.
The language-use guidance could widen a rift between Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership and some sectors of its workforce, which has historically had a morale issue.
Under former President Trump, immigration enforcement work was lauded at the highest levels of the administration, often by the president himself.
The inclusive language memos are representative of a shift in immigration enforcement attitudes that the Biden administration is trying to enact throughout the federal government and a balancing act between addressing long standing morale issues and a focus on immigrant safety.
“As DHS’s lead investigative agency, and as an essential steward of a more secure and humane immigration system, ICE will set a tone and example for our country for years,” reads Johnson’s memo. “The way that we choose to communicate is critical to enforcing our nation’s laws while respecting the humanity and dignity of those individuals with whom we interact.”
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