The Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly instructed U.S. attorney offices to stop using the term “undocumented immigrants” and to instead refer to them as “illegal aliens,” according to an email CNN claims to have “obtained.”
The redacted Justice Department Guidance email instructs public information officers (PIOs) to follow the guidance on describing alien status in press releases to clear up confusion and be consistent across the board:
The word “undocumented” is not based in U.S. code and should not be used to describe someone’s illegal presence in the country. If an alien is legally present in the U.S., or that client’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…. They should be described 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.
Furthermore, the guidance instructed PIOs to:
“follow definitions in 8 U.S. Code § 1101 to describe status. 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 it determine whether to detain a defendant, they should be referred to as an ‘illegal alien’.”
At the time of this writing, CNN had the only source for this reported change. If indeed this is true, the left is going to have a meltdown. Anti-Trump and anti-immigration control protesters are going to scream like banshees at the injustice of the phrase, claiming everything from racial slurs to criminal profiling. And they will have a little bit of support on their side from the Associated Press (AP).
In 2013, AP — which is the style and guidelines for writing and reporting that most news outlets use — changed its stylebook on the use of “illegal immigrant.”
Illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.
Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.
Keep in mind this is a style guide, not the end all law on how to address illegal aliens — and yes, I used the ‘new’ term — although AP claimed at the time that the change was not a result of political correctness. Immigrants who are here without permission are here illegally and are alien to the U.S.; therefore, they can be considered illegal aliens.
“Undocumented immigrants” is a very misleading term, as former AP Deputy Managing Editor Tom Kent explained in a 2012 memo:
“Terms like “undocumented” and “unauthorized” can make a person’s illegal presence in the country appear to be a matter of minor paperwork. Many illegal immigrants aren’t “undocumented” at all; they may have a birth certificate and passport from their home country, plus a U.S. driver’s license, Social Security card or school ID. What they lack is the fundamental right to be in the United States.”
So, which is the correct term to use when describing people who are not citizens of America and are here without the permission of our government? Are they illegal aliens? Undocumented Immigrants? Illegal Immigrants? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.