‘Alien’ is a monster movie, no longer a person

19th Apr 2021

Have you seen the movie, “Alien”?

The 1979 science fiction horror film grossed $103 million at the U.S. box office, and the ugly monster that popped its head out of the belly of a human has grossed out millions more movie-goers by spawning several sequels.

Aliens are scary. Hollywood knows that.

Words matter. Bigots, zealots, nationalists and xenophobes know that.

So, while the word “Alien” on the movie marquee may attract the squeamish who pay to be afraid, when used as a term in immigration discourse or enforcement, the manufactured fear comes at a real cost to our humanity.

Make no mistake about it: Calling someone an “illegal alien” is a way to dehumanize a person. It’s a way to spread the fear, plant the hate and grow the viciousness against immigrants and non-citizens.

In the name of “humanity,” the Biden administration is changing the way U.S. immigration enforcement agencies should refer to undocumented individuals. Gone is “illegal alien,” with the replacement term being “undocumented noncitizen.”

This makes perfect sense. First of all, a person without proper documentation has yet to have their day in court, and it’s a misdemeanor offense anyway. In addition, a person cannot be “illegal.”

According to a pair of memos sent Monday to the heads of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, also being replaced is the term “assimilation” in favor of “integration.”

This terminology better reflects who we are: a nation of many cultures, races, religions and ethnicities. The fact is, we are more of a tapestry than a melting pot. In this nation of immigrants, we celebrate diversity. To do otherwise is counter to our universal American values.

It likely will take a while for the new lingo to replace old pejorative phrases. After all, at this point in time, they are merely ordered guidelines that will become law only when comprehensive immigration reform takes place. And most everyone agrees, immigration reform must take place.

No doubt there will resistance to the new terms. It’s kind of funny, in an uncomical way, that continual justification of using the term “alien” in everyday vernacular for years has been, “Well, that’s the official term of the federal government.” Tellingly, such justification is usually made by those who defy the federal government’s words and authority with most every other utterance.

We’ve all seen that movie. The justification is now gone.

What will the rationale be for refusing to move forward with the new terminology? Nostalgia for black-and-white flickers, maybe? Such misguided but intentional insult alienates any true humanitarian view of our colorful world and certainly doesn’t warrant a sequel.

Beginning today, people without citizenship shall simply be referred to as non-citizens. They are not monsters. They are not aliens. That horror show is over.


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