Biden Bans ICE And Immigration Officials From Describing Migrants As ‘Illegal Aliens’

by : Julia Banim on : 20 Apr 2021 18:10
Biden Bans ICE And Immigration Officials From Describing Migrants As 'Illegal Aliens'PA Images

President Joe Biden has banned Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration officials from using terms such as ‘illegal aliens’, ‘alien’ and ‘assimilation’ when referring to migrants.

The changes were detailed in memos, cited by The Washington Post, that were addressed to ICE and CBP department heads on Monday, April 19.


Under these new changes, ‘alien’ will be replaced by ‘noncitizen or migrant,’ while ‘undocumented’ will replace ‘illegal’. ‘Assimilation’ will become ‘integration’.


It’s understood the changes are part of an ongoing effort to reverse the hard-line immigration policies and rhetoric of former president Donald Trump, while advancing President Biden’s efforts to ‘restore humanity and American values’ to the US immigration system.

The memo described the new terms, which are considered to be guidance, as ‘the preferred terminology’ and ‘inclusive language’. These measures will be applied to agency outreach and internal documents as well as to communications with stakeholders, partners and members of the public.


CBP’s top official, Troy Miller, said:

As the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, we set a tone and example for our country and partners across the world.

We enforce our nation’s laws while also maintaining the dignity of every individual with whom we interact. The words we use matter and will serve to further confer that dignity to those in our custody.

Acting ICE director Tae Johnson gave a similar response in a separate memo, stating:

In response to the vision set by the Administration, ICE will ensure agency communications use the preferred terminology and inclusive language.

PA ImagesPA Images

The changes have been widely praised by those who have long advocated for a more humane way of speaking about migrants in political discussions.

Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., who is a member of the Homeland Security Committee, told NBC News the updated terms will help shift public perception:

These changes are a much-needed shift away from the negative rhetoric weaponized by the previous administration, and a small change that reveals how humanity can be reflected in our immigration policies.


The term ‘alien’ has been used in official government documents for some time. In July 2020, a Trump Administration executive order designed to exclude migrants from the count for Congress was entitled ‘Excluding Illegal Aliens From the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census’.

In 2013, The Associated Press altered the AP Stylebook to get rid of any use of the terms ‘illegal immigrant’ or ‘illegal alien,’ except for in quotations.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, ice, immigration, language, Now, President Joe Biden


The Washington Post and 1 other
  1. The Washington Post

    ICE, CBP to stop using ‘illegal alien’ and ‘assimilation’ under new Biden administration order

  2. NBC News

    'Words we use matter': Biden administration chucks 'illegal alien' for 'noncitizen'