The primary agencies tasked with enforcing border security and immigration laws in President Joe Biden’s administration recently announced that certain words such as “illegal aliens” and “assimilation” will no longer be used in both external and internal communications.
That decision prompted something of a rebuke from a moderate Texas Democrat representing a border district, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), who revealed Monday that he fully intends to continue using the legal terms despite the Biden administration’s prohibition, the Washington Examiner reported.
Statutory language trumps political correctness
“I can understand some people are trying to be a little bit more politically correct, but if you look at what the statutes say, they do use the word ‘alien,'” Cuellar told reporters during a briefing Monday. “That’s what the statute does, so until the statute changes, some of us will continue to be using the word ‘alien’ on that.”
“I don’t think the statute is going to be changed, but I can understand that thinking of some folks,” the congressman added. “That is the word that’s in the statute until we change that.”
Cuellar represents the 28th District in Texas, which is anchored to the north by San Antonio and encompasses about 200 miles of the southern border with Mexico. The congressman has served that district since 2005 and is the vice-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
Federal agencies adopt “inclusive language”
Cuellar was referencing two memos issued Monday by senior officials at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding mandated changes with “preferred terminology and inclusive language” used to describe migrants.
Henceforth, and reflective of “the Administration’s view,” the term “alien” would be replaced by “noncitizen or migrant,” the term “illegal alien” would be replaced by “undocumented noncitizen,” and the word “assimilation” would be replaced by “integration,” among other similar shifts in phraseology.
Those new terms will now be required in all internal documents and external communications, though the memo did allow for exceptions in certain “legal and Operational documents,” when necessary, given the fact that, as the congressman noted, the replaced words were still the legal terminology used in applicable statutory language, such as the Immigration Nationality Act and other laws.
There is also an effort already underway to formally change the language within the applicable statutes, such as legislation filed by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) that seeks to prohibit the federal government’s use of the “derogatory” term “alien” as a descriptor for foreign nationals, the Examiner reported.
Likewise, Biden’s proposed U.S. Citizenship Act would also officially replace the term “alien” with “noncitizen” in all federal statutory language.
Cuellar has opposed Biden before
This isn’t the first time Cuellar has been critical of decisions made by the Democratic president that he otherwise supports, at least when it comes to the administration’s enforcement policies regarding immigration and border security.
In March, Cuellar criticized Biden’s welcoming language and his approach toward migrants as being exploited to the benefit of Mexican drug gangs, smugglers, and traffickers, Newsweek reported. Similarly, in late February Cuellar was critical of Biden’s open borders policies for bringing about the massive surge of migrants at the border, many of whom are unaccompanied children, and urged that existing laws be enforced rather than ignored.