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Words Matter

Posted by Michael Kohler | Jan 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

With today's inauguration of President Biden and the official beginning of his administration, all Americans can look forward to a new day ahead in U.S. immigration policy.

From the “Muslim Ban” Executive Orders issued days after taking office through major, procedure-changing regulations relating to the H-1B temporary work visa for professionals issued just days ago on January 15, 2021, the Trump Administration focused significant time, energy, and resources on altering U.S. immigration policy throughout its entire 4-year period of constantly changing enforcement-driven immigration rules, regulations, and policy. 

President Biden today released a fact sheet summarizing The Citizenship Act of 2021 that he is prepared to immediately forward to Congress with the stated goal to, “establishe[s] a new system to responsibly manage and secure our border, keep our families and communities safe, and better manage migration across the Hemisphere.”

While there are numerous proposals in this bill that will grab headlines and be the subject of legitimate policy debates, one small provision caught my eye.  The bill proposes to replace the word “alien” in our immigration laws with the term “non-citizen.”  As an intern at the Immigration Court in New York in 1995 and first learning about immigration law, I recall a judge commenting on the proper, yet awkward, use of the term “alien” when drafting court documents.  “Alf is an alien.  People are not aliens,” I recall her saying. 

Nevertheless, “alien” is the term defined in our immigration laws and what is used to this day despite being, well…quite alienating.  The verb “alienate”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means, “to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent.”  Not a very welcoming term from a country that once prided - and hopefully again soon with this one, small change - prides itself on being a nation of immigrants. 

In the days and weeks ahead, as the words of President Biden's proposal are revealed and hopefully enacted into law, contact the Law Offices of Michael Kohler, PLLC to discuss how they apply to your particular case.

About the Author

Michael Kohler

Biography Prior to opening the Law Offices of Michael Kohler, PLLC in 2008, Michael served for 12 years as an attorney for the U.S. government. From 1996-97, Michael served as a Law Clerk for the Immigration Court in New York City. From 1997-2003, Michael was an Assistant District Counsel for th...


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