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DHS contractor: Use 'undocumented noncitizen,' not 'illegal immigrant,' 'rioter' racially charged

The terms that received the most negative response in interviews were "Jihadist," "extremist" and "terrorist," RAND said. 

Published: October 31, 2023 8:10am

Updated: October 31, 2023 9:44am

The RAND Corporation, a left-leaning think tank and Department of Homeland Security contractor, is urging the government to replace the term "illegal immigrant" with "undocumented noncitizen," and says that words such as "rioter" and "jihadist" are "racially charged" and should not be used. 

The report this month from the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, which is operated by RAND under a federal contract, recommends DHS to consider changes that will "keep the department's lexicon from getting stale, static, or otherwise inclusive of negative terminology." 

RAND said it generated the report in response to a request from the DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office. The DHS civil rights office "will apply the results of this research and analysis to develop potential recommendations for the Secretary," the report states. 

Other words RAND considers racially charged include "looter" and "trespasser," which the group argues are "mostly applied to individuals of a particular race and not to White individuals who might engage in the same conduct or violate the same laws," the 84-page report states.

It's unclear whether or when DHS will adopt any or all of the recommended language.

RAND said it  identified the disfavored terms through interviews with nonprofit and community organizations.

The terms that received the most negative response in interviews were "Jihadist," "extremist" and "terrorist," RAND said. 

The interviewees said there is a time and place for the words, but they are "against the unregulated and contextualized use of these terms that can lead to dire consequences for those belonging to racially minoritized groups and minority religious faiths in the United States," according to RAND.

The report also includes a list of "preferred terms" for the agency to use. Some examples include replacing "immigrant" with "person," "prisoner" with "detained person" or "incarcerated person," "riot/rioter" with "protest" and "jihadist" with "terrorist or describe the person's beliefs or actions."

Neither DHS nor the RAND Corporation immediately responded to requests for comment.

Stanford University released a "harmful" language guide last year that included the word "American." And the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a list of words to "think twice about using," which included the terms "blackmail" and "inner city."

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