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Biden Seeks to Replace “Alien” with the Less Dehumanizing Term “Noncitizen” in Immigration Laws

One of President Joe Biden’s first actions after taking office was to propose sweeping reforms and changes to our nation’s immigration laws. The proposed eight-year path to United States citizenship has been discussed in the news quite a bit, but that was not his only proposal.

As the linked article from NBC News describes, President Biden has also proposed the removal of the term “alien” from the immigration laws and its replacement with a more appropriate, less dehumanizing, term. President Biden has chosen the term “noncitizen” as that replacement. Other terms have been suggested by other individuals over the years, including “foreign national.”

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Such a change to our immigration laws—which may seem merely symbolic or of low priority to some—would likely go a long way towards making foreign nationals feel more welcome, more human, while working with the federal government to apply for immigrant or nonimmigrant benefits.

It has long been the policy of David Swaim & Associates, P.C. that we use the term “foreign national” whenever possible in our writings and our correspondence with the immigration agencies and others, only using the term “alien” when it is absolutely necessary in a direct quotation from a federal statute or regulation.

Of course, it is important to bear in mind that this is only a proposal, as are all of the sweeping immigration reforms proposed by President Biden. No one knows at this point whether any, or all, of the proposed reforms will come to fruition, or, if they do, what form they will take. The precise details and language of new laws are important, and those details are always subject to change until actually passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. This is a very fluid situation, and our firm will continue to monitor it closely.

Alex Farquhar
Associate Attorney – Dallas, Texas
David Swaim & Associates