DOJ Press Release: "Young soldiers admit to transporting undocumented citizens"

Some DOJ press person followed an expurgation policy, imprecisely.


Last week, the Department of Justice published a press release, titled "Young soldiers admit to transporting undocumented citizens." Yikes.  The first sentence of the release uses the correct term:

Two military men stationed at Fort Hood have entered guilty pleas to conspiring to transport undocumented aliens within the United States, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

I suspect some DOJ press person was following a policy to strip the word "alien" from all documents, but did not follow the policy properly.

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  1. If they're undocumented, there's no proof one way or the other as to citizenship. The person in question presumably knows their own status. If the report writer was just guessing, they can't be "undocumented citizens" or "undocumented aliens", only "undocumented".

    1. If they have fake ID, are they still "undocumented"?

      1. Good question. Maybe "questionably documented" until proven true or false.

      2. If they have a specific race, they could be referred to as individuals whose lives matter. Or if it were a diverse group then individuals whose lives matter and other individuals.

  2. Not sure I follow your theory. If they were following a directive to remove the word "alien" from public statements, why did they not remove it from the body of the press release?

    1. They need a refresher course on propaganda writing

  3. I wonder if they can retract their confessions: "Wait, we didn't mean to say undocumented aliens, we meant to say undocumented citizens. It's a mistake anybody could make."

  4. "Undocumented Citizens"?

    Does that imply that if they show up before a US embassy or consulate, they can ask for documentation to say that they are US Citizens?

    "Hello, I'm a citizen of the US, but don't appear to have my papers on me. Can you please provide me a copy to show I'm a citizen?".

  5. If an "undocumented citizen" votes in a federal election, is it a crime?

    The 15th amendment says

    "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

  6. We need to know if they were transporting xenomorphs!

  7. "military men"

    Very bureaucratic.


    1. Fort Hood is a US Army base, so "soldiers" is probably correct.

  8. JB,
    Stop beating the dead horse.

  9. The statement is technically correct. They are citizens, just not US citizens.

    1. It's possible that they're stateless.

  10. This is very simple—if Cubans wash up on Florida’s shores then that is an “illegal alien”…if Cubans go to a border crossing or airport and apply for asylum they are no longer illegal aliens they are asylum seekers doing something legal. Prior to January 2017 we allowed illegal immigrant Cubans to have fast track citizenship…we now deport illegal alien Cubans.

  11. They’re people. A word conveniently forgotten around here.

    1. Oh, come on. Also unmentioned is their status as carbon based life forms, their status as baryonic matter...

      Nobody forgot they were people, it just wasn't relevant, so spare us to stupid histronics.

      1. They could have used the word “people” and avoided all the fuss.

        1. Nobody gets arrested for transporting people.

  12. You've never been in the military, obviously.

    Picture this: You're a subordinate. You get a stupid, badly-drafted, not-thought-out or otherwise screwed-up order from a superior. Your first duty as a soldier is to obey all the lawful orders issued you by your superior. That's drilled into your head from the first instant of your service. Just because an order is stupid, badly-drafted, not-thought-out or otherwise screwed-up does not make it "not a lawful order". That's also drilled into your head from the first instant of your service (if only because you don't know the Big Picture). You follow your orders, to the letter. When there's a problem, someone comes storming up raising hell about what you just did. And you point to your orders. "I was given my orders and I followed them." Perfect defense to the ass-chewing.

    In this case, there doubtless was a memo (that's an "order") directing public relations drafters to refer to "aliens" as "undocumented citizens" or whatever. The public relations drafter here did as [s]he was ordered. Actually, [s]he messed up, because referring to "citizens" in one place and "aliens" in another in the same document makes a hash of the communicative value.
    So, any justifiable chewing out for this drafter would be for internal inconsistency violating the regulations on how to draft correspondence.

    You do know the Army (and the other services, too) has a literal manual on how to write correspondence and all sorts of other documents, don't you?

    1. 1. This is a DOJ press release.

      2. I think it is extremely unlikely that DOJ (or the army) has directed people to refer to aliens as "citizens".

      1. 1. I saw the DoJ part after I posted and then re-read the original post. The whole "take orders and follow them" thing applies with pretty much equal force in DoJ.

        2. Someone told the scrivener of the press release it was OK. Who, we'll likely never know.

  13. I know of a case for which this might have been (she is deceased) an appropriate term. She was born in Poland and emigrated to the US at the age of 3. Her parents became citizens but, falsely thinking that the children automatically became citizens when they did, did not have her naturalized at the same time. As a young woman, she married a European and was to accompany him to his home country, for which she needed a passport. At this point she discovered that she was not a US citizen. She was not interested in being a citizen of Poland or the USSR or whatever country it might have been at the time, and proving that citizenship and obtaining a passport might have been difficult and time-consuming. So she simply declared that she was three years younger than she really was and had been born in the United States. The government accepted her claim and gave her a passport.

    1. Wouldn't that make her exactly the opposite—-a documented alien?

      1. Perhaps. I guess it depends on whether you consider her to have become a real citizen with a fake application or a non-citizen with a real passport.

  14. 10 years in prison for the citizens

    free plane tickets and release for the undocumented citizens

    whata country

  15. Was Warrant Officer Ripley involved?

  16. I work for the Executive Office of Immigration Review. Indeed, there is a directive from EOIR leadership requiring the use of alternative terms for "alien," such as "non-citizen." (It came down a couple of weeks ago at about 4:30 pm on a Friday.) The directive applies to all official documents and correspondence, not just public relations pieces.

    1. Alien has been the proper word to succinctly state what the Constitution refers to as, "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States" since the founding of the nation. It describes all those persons who are not citizens. For such an unambiguous term with unquestionable legal meaning to be excised over the spurious assertion that it has become pejorative is unconscionable.

      When assessing a person's status as a citizen, it is much more important for the language to be precise than for it to be perceived as friendly. Any one with a legal education should be ashamed to be associated with such deliberate obfuscation. Orwell said it very well:

      A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

      'Undocumented citizens' is a result of what may best be described as mandated slovenliness. It is woefully inaccurate to describe aliens in such a manner and dangerously ambiguous to describe citizens in such a manner.

    2. Good luck with your propaganda guidelines. I hope the order came with a newspeak dictionary.

      1. It was so very difficult to figure out what they meant to say.

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