U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in charge of administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, had a busy week. No, the agency did not make a meaningful dent in reducing processing times for adjudications or cut down on the record backlogs plaguing numerous immigration benefits. Nor did the financially fragile agency issue revised fees to actually recuperate the full cost of adjudications, as required by law. Instead, over several days USCIS has devoted resources to updating numerous pages on its website to remove the statutory word “alien”.
As a reminder, section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines the term “alien” as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States”. This precise and benign word weirdly bothers the Biden political appointees and allies, resulting in an Immigration Newspeak effort to purge it from the lexicon. As David North highlighted back in January, President Biden’s mass amnesty bill devotes an entire section to replacing the word “alien” with “noncitizen” throughout the INA. Similarly, Jessica Vaughan commented that the president has “abolished the use of the word ‘alien’”. Of course, “alien” and “noncitizen” are not synonymous. As Andrew Arthur explained, the term “noncitizen” inherently defines someone by what he or she is not — a citizen.
In February, Acting Director of USCIS Tracy Renaud issued a memo formalizing the Immigration Newspeak. In that two-page memo, Renaud wrote "the Biden Administration provides direction on the preferred use of immigration-related terminology within the federal government" and includes a table of previously used terms and the Biden-approved replacements. With those marching orders, USCIS began devoting resources to scrub its website and Policy Manual of the statutory term “alien”.
Apparently, this is quite a labor-intensive task, as USCIS is still making updates 10 months later. Just this week alone, USCIS swapped “alien” for “noncitizen” on the following webpages:
- December 7: Green Cards for Asylees; Conrad 30 Waiver Program; GB Temporary Visitor to Guam; H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers; P-1B A Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group;
- December 8: Working in the United States; and
- December 9: Visa Availability and Priority Dates and E-1 Treaty Traders
Because this is a messaging gimmick, there are — and will continue to be — webpages that use the term “alien” precisely because it is a statutory definition. A few quick examples include I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, the pages devoted to family-based and employment-based lawful permanent resident status. The clearest example that this is not a substantive issue is the page about A-Files.
Anyone want to guess what the “A” stands for?