The term, “illegal alien” has long been used in US immigration laws despite condemnation from activists, and the language became even more commonplace under the Trump administration.
Founder of Define American, Jose Antonio Vargas, whose organisation has pushed for more accurate portrayals of immigrants, called it a fundamental change.
“The language change on the first day of this administration, with Kamala Harris the daughter of immigrants, to me it’s not just symbolic… it’s foundational,” Mr Vargas, who is an undocumented immigrant, told CNN.
He added: “How we describe people really sticks. It affects how we treat them. How we talk about immigrants shapes the policies.
“It frames what are the issues really at stake here. It acknowledges that we’re talking about human beings and families.”
According to the US Code, the term “alien” means any person not a citizen or national of the United States.
“If you alienate half of your audience by your use of terminology, it’s going to hamper your ability to ever win an argument.”
Mr Trump used the term at least five times when speaking at the Mexico border last week before the end of his presidency, according to the broadcaster.
“We were in the Trump administration the perennial boogeyman,” Mr Vargas said. “Whenever Mr Trump was in trouble, he started talking about the ‘illegals’ and talking about the border.”