Ex-Alien Judge Speaks Out in Favor of Using the Statutory Term “Alien” Rather Than “Noncitizen”
From yesterday’s Ninth Circuit opinion by Judge Mary Murguia, joined by Judge Marsha Berzon, in Avilez v. Garland:
This opinion uses the term noncitizen unless quoting language from the immigration statutes or past opinions containing the term alien. There are two reasons behind this choice. First, use of the term noncitizen has become a common practice of the Supreme Court, see Patel v. Garland (2022) (Barrett, J.); United States v. Palomar-Santiago (2021) (Sotomayor, J.); Barton v. Barr (2020) (Kavanaugh, J.) (“This opinion uses the term ‘noncitizen’ as equivalent to the statutory term ‘alien.'”), whose lead on matters of style we ordinarily follow, and of the Board of Immigration Appeals, e.g., Matter of Dang (BIA 2022), whose decisions we review.
Second, even if that were not the case, “[c]areful writers avoid language that reasonable readers might find offensive or distracting—unless the biased language is central to the meaning of the writing.” Chicago Manual of Style Online 5.253, https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/book/ed17/part2/ch05/psec253.html. The word alien can suggest “strange,” “different,” “repugnant,” “hostile,” and “opposed,” Alien, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 53 (2002), while the word noncitizen, which is synonymous, see Alien and Noncitizen, American Heritage Dictionary of English Language 44, 1198 (5th ed. 2011), avoids such connotations. Thus, noncitizen seems the better choice. Respectfully, we do not see how this choice “comes at a real cost to litigants.” Judge Bea Concurrence at 43. Litigants may use either word, and we do not think our choice here will cause judges to “respond negatively” to litigants who use the term alien. See Judge Bea Concurrenc
Article from Latest