Acting Director of EOIR Forbids Judges from Using Term “Illegal Alien”



In a recent memo to all employees of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), Acting Director Jean King instructed the agency to stop using the terms “illegal” and/or “alien” when referencing foreign nationals before the court.

“Do not use the terms ‘alien’ or ‘illegal alien’ to describe migrants,” the memo states. “This Policy Memorandum… directs EOIR staff, including adjudicators, to use language that is ‘[consistent]with our character as a Nation of opportunity and of welcome.’”

Instead of using historically accepted – not to mention legally accurate – terms when referencing immigration lawbreakers, the memo laid out a list of terms to use instead, none of which acknowledge the illegal nature of these migrants.

Despite this directive, illegal alien is the correct term to reference those who violate our immigration laws by entering the country without authorization, overstaying the terms of their visas, or refusing to leave when directed by the federal government. In fact, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) codified the term “illegal alien” into federal law in 1986.

Furthermore, as noted by FAIR, the term “alien” has been used for centuries as a non-derogatory term to describe an individual is a foreigner. It originates from the Latin word “alius,” which translates to “another.” It’s first recorded usage in the English language dates back to the 14th century, meaning “a person who does not belong to a particular family, community, country, etc…” In the 15th century, it became the primary English term for those who are not a citizen of the country where they were residing. Furthermore, in the United States, the term has been referenced in federal law going back to the Naturalization Act of 1790.

This change in policy is a targeted effort by the Biden administration to portray illegal aliens as essentially the same as other immigrants, and only lacking some kind of official documentation. As indicated by the stated desire to make illegal aliens feel “welcome,” it is intentionally intended to downplay the seriousness of their illegal actions.

This is not the first time that the administration has attempted to bully immigration judges into following their political agenda regarding illegal aliens. Earlier this year, President Biden’s acting director for EOIR directed judges to dismiss cases that do not fall within the administration’s “deportation priorities,” even if there was clear and convincing evidence that the alien violated our nation’s laws.

The judges at EOIR are supposed to act “as independent adjudicators” who determine whether migrants have broken our immigration laws and then, if appropriate, decide if they are eligible for relief or subject to deportation. The fact that the Biden administration is meddling in the affairs of independent officials who are supposed to enforce our immigration laws as passed by Congress is extremely troubling. It’s important that EOIR remind the president of their independent authority to enforce the law as written, and their duty to refer to lawbreakers as lawbreakers, and citizens of foreign nations as aliens.

About Author

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Spencer joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2015. He conducts research, and writes content for FAIR’s publications and website. He brings previous experience in state politics, gubernatorial and district campaigns, and D.C. political non-profits. Spencer holds a B.A. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.

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