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Top Homeland Dem lashes out at Republicans for bill's use of 'aliens' to refer to migrants

The top Democratic lawmaker on the House Homeland Security Committee took aim at Republicans on Wednesday for using the term “alien” to describe migrants and noncitizens in its border security package — as both Democrats and the Biden administration have moved to cancel the use of the term.

Ranking Member Bennie Thompson criticized the language used in the border security package being considered in the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He called the bill “profoundly immoral” and objected to its use of ‘alien’ to refer to noncitizens.

“The bill never misses an opportunity to call fellow human beings ‘aliens,’” he said. 

He linked the language to the espousal on the right of the “Great Replacement” theory — the idea that left-wing lawmakers and others in power are seeking to replace the native population of a country via mass immigration with those from abroad who are believed to be more likely to vote for them.


House Jan. 6 committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson speaks during a June hearing

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“At a time when the Great Replacement theory is fueling violence against people of color, such language only reinforces an ‘us vs them’ mentality that is both unAmerican and unChristian,” Thompson said.

“We are commanded to welcome the stranger, yet this bill would do anything but call the vulnerable seeking asylum in the greatest country on earth children of god,” he said.

The term “alien” has long been a legal term used in statute and similar contexts to refer to those in a country who are neither citizens nor nationals, even if they also hold legal status. But some on the left have long argued that the term is dehumanizing. 

The Biden administration in 2021 urged officials at the Department of Homeland Security to stop using phrases like “illegal alien” in favor of more inclusive terms. 


A memo urged officials to stop referring to people as “alien,” in favor of “noncitizen.” It also told officials to refer to “undocumented individual” or “undocumented noncitizen” rather than “illegal alien.” It also recommended “integration” rather than “assimilation.” 

It is part of a broader battle over language in the immigration debate. Advocates have pushed for terms such as “undocumented” to be used instead of “illegal” and for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors to be called “Dreamers.”

Some Democratic lawmakers had backed the ending of the use of the word alien and have supported legislation to scrap it from statute.

“While it may to some be a symbolic change, we remove the word “alien” from the immigration code and replace it with “non citizen,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, said in 2021 in support of a bill that would replace terminology in immigration laws. “No longer will we dehumanize the undocumented.”

They have basically opened the border completely: Rep. Mark Green Video

Republicans and immigration hawks have pushed back on the push, dismissing claims it dehumanizes immigrants.

Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., on Wednesday noted that the term is in the Immigration and Nationality Act to refer to a person who is not a citizen or national of the United States.


“You cannot possibly be in favor of lowering the temperature and dialing down the rhetoric when you accuse the majority moving a piece of legislation of being unAmerican and unChristian for employing a term that is endemic and always has been to the law of immigration in this country,” he said.

RJ Hauman, founder of Stryker Strategies and immigration expert, said Thompson’s remarks are not just a semantic disagreement but are “crucial to understanding what is at the very heart of the contemporary debate over illegal immigration on Capitol Hill.”

“Only wanting to refer to an illegal alien as an ‘undocumented immigrant,’ or any other such euphonious alternative is, ultimately, the denial that a foreigner is in the United States in violation of the law. This is the first step in denying the American people the right to determine who is admitted into their country and under what conditions,” he told Fox News Digital. “Sadly, that is the Democratic Party’s entire agenda on the issue.”


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