‘Undocumented’ with Documents

Immigration newspeak causes linguistic embarrassment

By Robert Law on June 7, 2021

The first piece I wrote for the Center in January introduced the concept of “immigration newspeak”, meaning the decades-long war on immigration terminology by advocates of open borders and unlimited immigration to deceive the public about their policy intentions. The specific focus of that post was the animosity the Biden administration has to the term “alien” and the desire to replace it in our immigration laws with the catchall “noncitizen”. As a reminder, section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act defines the term “alien” as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”

As I touched on in that piece, before alien became “dehumanizing”, the advocates long ago started targeting illegal or unlawful as a descriptor of an alien violating U.S. immigration law. In an effort to obscure the lawlessness of the alien, these advocates engaged in an orchestrated marketing campaign to rebrand them as “undocumented”.

This notion of being “undocumented”, of course, is preposterous. In fact, every illegal alien in the country is very much “documented”, even if they disposed of said documents in the course of their unlawful entry or overstaying a visa. A non-exhaustive list of documents that an illegal alien in the country might possess (or possessed at some point in time) includes: (1) a birth certificate from the home country; (2) a passport, driver's license, or some other form of identity document from the home country; (3) a notice to appear (NTA) issued by U.S. immigration officials upon detaining the alien; (4) a visa permitting the alien into the U.S. of which he or she subsequently violated the terms of admission; (5) a fake U.S. passport, driver's license, or other identity document; (6) a stolen U.S. passport, driver's license, or other identity document; (7) an arrest record; or (8) a conviction issued by a U.S. judge.

Even Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor has no problem calling a spade a spade, repeatedly using the legally and factually accurate term “illegal alien” during the December 2020 oral arguments in Trump v. New York.

But the Biden administration doubled down, ordering U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to replace “illegal alien” with “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual”, among other terminology changes that replace legal, technical terms with imprecise words that require linguistic gymnastics to understand what exactly is being discussed.

Much to my amusement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) somehow slipped through the cracks and for months into the Biden administration continued using proper terminology instead of immigration newspeak. Eventually the word police caught up to CBP and they were ordered to adopt the language preferences used by the sister agencies.

As a result, you get this absurd press release out of CBP’s media shop on June 4: “Laredo Sector Border Patrol Arrests Undocumented Individuals with Fake Documents”. Undocumented with documents: Should we be confused or impressed? And just what documents did these “undocumented” aliens possess? According to the press release, many documents of all varieties:

  • May 30: Baltazar Bentancourt-Najera, a 24-year-old Mexican attempted to use both a fraudulent passport and Social Security card;
  • May 31: Luis Castenda-Pereyda, 35, and Andres Bentancourt-Alcocer Jr., 20, both Mexican attempted to use both fraudulent passports and Social Security cards;
  • June 2: Jovita Saucedo-Molina, a 27-year-old Mexican, and Alejandra Nohemy Rosa-Sosa, a 21-year-old Honduran both attempted to use fraudulent Order of Release on Recognizance forms;
  • June 3: Claudia Janet Menjivar-Cardona, a 34-year-old Honduran, Julio Maximiliano Ruiz-Barrios, a 38-year-old Guatemalan, and Giovanni Antonio Lara-Escobar, a 39-year-old Salvadoran all presented fraudulent U.S. passport cards.

Based on my reading of the press release, in these four separate events a total of eight illegal aliens presented a total of 11 fraudulent documents. The press release does not explain how CBP was able to identify the name, age, and country of origin of these apprehended illegal aliens. If they were also in possession of legal identity documents from their home countries, that brings the total of documents up to at least 19.

There is no one more documented than an “undocumented” alien.