Rodney Scott, chief of the United States Border Patrol, pushed back against the Biden administration’s vocabulary changes related to immigration in a recent memo, citing contradictions with U.S. law and the impact such politically motivated changes would have on his officers.
What is the background?
The Biden administration last week ordered Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to abandon words like “alien,” “illegal,” and “assimilation” when talking about migrants or immigration.
Instead, officials were directed to use words like “noncitizen or migrant,” “undocumented,” and “integration.” CBP top official Troy Miller said the lexical changes are necessary to protect the dignity of immigrants. “The words we use matter and will serve to further confer that dignity to those in our custody,” Miller said.
What did Scott say?
Prior to the administration’s directive, Scott wrote Miller bucking the vocabulary changes, writing on April 16 that he would not “endorse” the changes.
Breitbart Texas first obtained Scott’s letter.
“Rationale: The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) is and must remain an apolitical federal law enforcement agency. Over the years, many outside forces on both extremes of the political spectrum have intentionally, or unintentionally politicized our agency and our mission,” Scott wrote.
“Despite every attempt by USBP leadership to ensure that all official messaging remained consistent with law, fact, and evidence, there is no doubt that the reputation of the USBP has suffered because of the many outside voices,” he continued. “Mandating the use of terms which are inconsistent with law has the potential to further erode public trust in our government institutions.”
In fact, Scott said he worried politically motivated changes would impact the willingness of Border Patrol officers to serve sacrificially if they know the shifting political winds in Washington will micromanage them in the midst of a migrant crisis.
I am also concerned about the morale of our workforce. To be clear, when I reference morale, I am not referring to an employee’s happiness. I am referring to an individual’s willingness to take personal risk each day to keep others safe. There are countless human capital studies which indicate that mission criticality and support from leadership affect the willingness of personnel to comply with policy and professional standards.
I respectfully recommend that we delay these changes until the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is enacted and then adjust appropriately.
What does the law say?
As Scott indicated, the law defines terms related to immigrants differently than the Biden administration’s guidance dictates. Currently, U.S. law uses the term “alien” to describe “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”
In fact, critics of the lexical changes have even noted that despite efforts to change immigration vocabulary, the prohibited terms would still need to be used on legal documents.
The Washington Post reported:
In the past, officials and some federal judges have defended using “alien” because it is the official definition of noncitizen in federal laws. Officials acknowledge that officials may need to use the terms in “legal or operational documents,” such as when filling out required forms.
However, the Biden administration plans to change that.
The U.S. Citizenship Act 2021, President Joe Biden’s aggressive immigration reform bill, would formally change the definition in U.S. law for non-citizen immigrants from “alien” to “noncitizen.