The Justice Department reportedly told its employees to no longer use the term “undocumented” immigrant, a term the DOJ said was not in U.S. law.
“The word ‘undocumented’ is not based in US code and should not be used to describe someone’s illegal presence in the country,” the department said in an agency-wide email, according to CNN.
In the email, the department told employees to instead use the term “illegal alien” in documents like press releases.
“PIOs [public information officers] should follow definitions in 8 U.S. Code § 1101 to describe status,” the DOJ said.
Specifically, when a defendant’s illegal presence in the U.S. is an established fact in the public record, or when it has been provided to the court to help determine whether to detain a defendant, they should be referred to as an “illegal alien.”
The DOJ also instructed employees to identify an immigrant’s country of citizenship if their legal status was unknown:
If an alien is legally present in the U.S., or that alien’s legal status in the U.S. is unknown, unclear, or absent from the public record at the time a press release is being issued, it is appropriate to describe their country of citizenship, such as ‘Canadian National Convicted of Human Trafficking.’ They should be describe according to their citizenship, not their city or state of residence. For instance “a Honduran citizen residing in Toledo” is correct. “Toledo Man” doesn’t accurately describe his residency.
The terms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” have provoked criticism from many who saw their use as inappropriate.
The Associated Press style guide, which many media outlets abide by, updated its style guide in 2013 to remove “illegal” as a way to modify an immigrant.
Others, including some Republicans, have continued to use the modifier “illegal” because they view it as an accurate way of describing immigrants who broke the law by entering the country.
While many on Twitter criticized the move as a way of unfairly describing immigrants and even “trying to strip them of their humanity”, others agreed with the DOJ’s statement:
As you know, @TheJusticeDept has instructed attorneys to start using the phrase "illegal alien" instead of "undocumented immigrants." The Federation of American Immigration Reform's research team explains why "illegal alien" is the correct term here: https://t.co/gPuqVvXwma
— FAIR (@FAIRImmigration) July 27, 2018
Justice Department: They're Not 'Undocumented' Immigrants, They're 'Illegal Aliens' — So Say So https://t.co/LIgWMfTSsd
— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) July 25, 2018
Control the words used to describe a situation works to control how people think about the situation. Propaganda 101.
— James (@jamesdiscourse) July 25, 2018
Sheriff David A. Clarke, a frequent guest on Fox News, gave a passionate defense of the Justice Department’s decision:
When you TRESPASS into the United States at the border, you are an ILLEGAL ALIEN. Left did the same with CAREER CRIMINALS in the 80's. Softened the term. Referred to them as "FINDING themselves on the wrong side of the law". WRONG! They are CRIMINALS. https://t.co/xaYSBIoe2o
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) July 25, 2018
“When you TRESPASS into the United States at the border, you are an ILLEGAL ALIEN,” he said before adding that they were “CRIMINALS.”