Not long ago, illegal border crossers in the U.S. were referred to as illegal aliens. It wasn’t because they were thought to be extraterrestrials but rather that the term “alien” has long been understood to refer to someone from a foreign land.
Over time, it was changed to “illegal immigrant” in order to soften the name for people who thwart U.S. immigration law. But during Obama’s administration, it became unofficially altered again to “undocumented migrant.”
The elimination of the word “illegal” was a sly way for Democrats, journalists, and activists to separate the criminal label from those committing crimes. Even style books for journalists suggested the use of “undocumented migrant.”
The Associated Press, which holds a powerful influence over how words are used in the journalistic world, went as far as to say that journalists shouldn’t refer to an illegal alien as “illegal alien, an illegal, illegals, or undocumented” or “an “illegal immigrant.” The AP insisted that people should not be labeled for their crime, even if they are committing it every day by living in the country illegally.
They suggested instead to refer to an illegal alien as someone who is living in the country “without legal permission.” Quite a mouthful for an oft-addressed topic.
But CNN reported on Tuesday that the U.S. Justice Department is going back to using the term “illegal alien.”
"The word 'undocumented' is not based in US code and should not be used to describe someone's illegal presence in the country," a memo sent to U.S. attorney offices stated.
The Justice Department said they wanted to clear up some confusion in their own department because words, quite simply, do mean things. Altering terms has an effect, and in the legal world, the less confusion and inconsistency there is, the better.
The mainstream media will, of course, continue to use whichever term best pushes their narrative, but as far as the Trump administration goes, it’s one more piece of former President Obama’s legacy that’s been shelved.