In recent press releases, the Department of Justice has been using the phrase "illegal alien" to define illegal immigrants.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermined our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” the DOJ announced last week.
As expected, the critics are out in full force.
Some are calling it "legally inaccurate."
“They’re using a legally inaccurate term that’s deployed to unfairly label and scapegoat people who are out of status due to a variety of systemic circumstances,” Xakota Espinoza from the Center for Racial Justice Innovation, told LawNewz.com.
Others, like Chicago Tribune contributor Ted Slowik, dedicated an entire op-ed explaining why the phrase is too "loaded."
Why does this matter? The phrase "illegal alien" plays into assumptions that immigrants living in this country without proper documentation are criminals. In fact, immigration status is often a civil matter, not a criminal one.
I think this cuts to the heart of the debate over sanctuary cities and to what extent local law enforcement should cooperate with immigration authorities. Important legal nuances are reflected in words we use. A "detainee" is not a "prisoner," for instance.
In summary, illegal immigrants committed a crime entering this country by circumventing the proper channels - but they're not criminals.
For a different perspective, read Heritage's take on why the term "illegal alien" is wholly appropriate. As they note, even the Supreme Court has employed the phrase.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions probably could care less what the most "politically correct" term is for illegal immigration. He is just doing his job and cracking down on it. He has given sanctuary cities an ultimatum: Stop harboring those who are here illegally, or lose federal funding.