The Joe Biden administration is making efforts to humanize citizens and extend basic human rights. 

The Department of Homeland Security was directed on Tuesday to stop using the words like “alien” and “illegal alien” in public or within the agency when referring to people who are not United States citizens. Per a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News, this was done in an effort to try to recast immigration terminology by the Biden administration. 

This comes as a debate rages regarding the way immigrants are described by the agencies and federal laws that govern them. For immigrants and their allies, this is a step towards humanizing those who want to make the U.S. their new home. The move also follows the removal of “alien” from the California Labor Code and the Library of Congress.

“When we call people aliens we are depriving them of their sense of humanity,” Filipino American and paralegal, Raymond Partolan, said. “Whenever someone uses the word alien it conjures up images of beings that are out of this world.”

Yet, there are some people who believe that “alien”/“illegal alien” is not offensive terms and that the change is unnecessary. 

“Immigration is a complex issue, but the statutory definition of ‘alien’ is as benign as any word in our laws could possibly be,” Former Trump administration official Robert Law wrote in his blog. “The term ‘alien’ is precise, accurate, and in no way offensive. To suggest otherwise is to suspend reality and is not a serious or reasonable position.”

Though many Americans believe that the removal of this term is a step in the right direction, immigration activists think this is a surface-level fix for a problem that needs to be addressed at its root. 

“Removing ‘alien’… won’t stop ICE from deporting anyone or make life easier for people who aren’t U.S. citizens,” University of Denver law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández said. “Still, it is important to remove the word ‘alien’ because it’s offensive to describe people using the same word that conjures images of two-headed Martian invaders.”