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Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Department of Justice’s budget on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Department of Justice’s budget on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Trump’s government formalizes the term 'illegal alien'

The Department of Justice has instructed lawyers to dismiss the term "undocumented" and refer to immigrants as "illegal aliens."

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The tools of Donald Trump's government to dehumanize undocumented immigrants - especially those from Latin America - are increasingly clever.

The president has referred to people born in Mexico as "rapists" and "bad hombres," and immigrants who cross the country's southern border "animals." His officials (especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions) embrace new policies of "zero tolerance" against the Hispanic community in the U.S. Now, the transformation of official language is one of the most powerful symptoms of the new social reality of the country.

According to CNN, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has informed all of the lawyers' offices in the country that they should abandon the term "undocumented" in legal proceedings, and refer to whoever is "illegally" in the country as an "illegal alien."

In the email that CNN had access to, the DOJ argues that “the word ‘undocumented’ is not based in U.S. code and should not be used to describe someone’s illegal presence in the country.”

From now on, the department “recommends” the use of “illegal alien” to describe “an individual who is illegally in the U.S.”

Similarly, the DOJ adds: "an immigrant who is in the U.S. legally or whose status is unknown is to be described by their country of citizenship.”

For their part, U.S. citizens or visa holders must be referred to as "residents" of the state or city where they live.

The DOJ has argued that its "suggestion" is to "clear up some confusion and to be consistent in the way we draft our releases."

While the government's recommendation is directed to legislative offices, media outlets like the Associated Press have decided to abandon the terminology of "illegal" when it comes to referring to undocumented immigrants because "illegal should describe only an action" and not a person.

During times when words and headlines weigh heavily, using the word "undocumented" remains the best way to avoid collaborating with a campaign of stigmatization and segregation while at the same time resisting changes in the trenches of journalism.

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