The Words That Are In and Out With the Biden Administration

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Now, the Biden administration is explicitly reversing that position. On Feb. 12, officials at Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles citizenship, said employees should not use the word “alien” in “outreach efforts, internal documents and in overall communication with stakeholders, partners and the general public.” The move, the agency’s acting director said, “aligns our language practices with the administration’s guidance on the federal government’s use of immigration terminology.”

A few days later, the White House went further. In his legislative proposal for a far-reaching immigration overhaul, Mr. Biden would strip the word “alien” from the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and substitute it with “noncitizen,” a suggestion that infuriates anti-immigration groups.

“It’s kind of Orwellian — that’s what it is, really,” said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limits on immigration. “The war against the word ‘alien’ is a continuation of this effort to destigmatize illegal immigration that started in the mid-1970s. This is in a sense the culmination of that process.”

Some changes are still pending.

The website of the Department of Homeland Security’s citizenship office,, still bears the mission statement that Trump administration officials modified in 2018 to remove “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” and replace it with “fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits.” That could soon switch course.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Trump’s aides had taken down the part of the website devoted to climate change. As of mid-February, the site had not yet been restored. But given Mr. Biden’s embrace of the subject, officials said they expected that to happen soon.

But the Treasury Department is already moving ahead with plans to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, a decision that had been delayed during the Trump administration.

And at the Interior Department, employees have been told that they can use phrases like “science-based evidence” again. In a call with the agency’s public relations officials on Jan. 21, Ms. Schwartz had a message for her colleagues.

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