A pair of memos issued Monday from Tae Johnson and Troy Miller, the acting heads of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, outlined the updated language for all external and internal communications to align with the Biden administration’s guidance regarding immigration terminology.
The terms “alien” will be replaced with “noncitizen” or “migrant,” “illegal alien” with “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual,” and “assimilation” will change to “integration,” according to the memos.
Press releases from the two agencies had previously referred to undocumented immigrants as “aliens.”
Officials in the past have pointed to the term’s prevalence in US laws to defend their word choices.
The Biden administration is continuing to grapple with an influx of migrants at the southern border. The number of unaccompanied minor children in US Customs and Border Protection custody, an agency not intended to care for children for prolonged periods of time, reached dramatic highs throughout the month of March.
In a notable shift over the weekend, Biden described the influx of migrant children on the southern border as a “crisis” — a term that top administration officials have refused to use, instead calling the situation a “challenge.” The White House sought to walk back the President’s comments Monday, claiming Biden was referring to the conditions in Northern Triangle countries that migrants are coming from and not the surge of migrant children in US custody.
The Biden administration isn’t alone in drawing attention to the language used to characterize immigration. Former President George W. Bush on Sunday called on Congress to tone down the “harsh rhetoric” on immigration, adding that he hopes that doing so will “set a tone that is more respectful” of immigrants and lead to reform.
This story has been updated with additional details Monday.
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Catherine E. Shoichet, Nicky Robertson and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.