Tuesday, February 23, 2021
From ‘aliens’ to ‘noncitizens’ – the Biden administration is proposing to change a legal term to recognize the humanity of non-Americans
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the comprehensive U.S. immigration laws. It applies primarily o "aliens," a terminological word that in effect is the DNA of the INA. In an article in The Conversation, I look at a proposal that might change the terms of the entire discussion of immigration:
"A profound change has been proposed by the Biden administration for U.S. immigration law. Following up on candidate Joe Biden’s promise of immigration reform legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Act would eliminate the term `alien' from the U.S. immigration laws.
The country’s bedrock immigration law, the Immigration and Nationality Act, would be amended to say that `[t]he term ‘noncitizen’ means any person not a citizen or national of the United States.'
Some might think that terminology is not a big deal. But as a scholar of immigration and civil rights law, I believe that the one-word change could deeply influence Americans’ views about the rights of noncitizens and, by so doing, the future trajectory of immigration law and policy.
In forging immigration law and policy, it is far easier to deny the humanity of an `alien' than to do so for a “noncitizen.” The use of the word `alien' helps rationalize the severe treatment of noncitizens of color, from detention in cages, family separation and more."
California is also considering modernizing the law by eliminating the term "alien."