WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the lead of the Biden Administration, Democratic lawmakers from multiple states are seeking to pass legislation that would abolish the terms “alien” and “Illegal alien” from state statutes, saying the terms are “dehumanizing and derogatory.”
Lawmakers in at least seven states are considering replacing these terms with descriptions such as “undocumented,” “noncitizen,” or “immigrant,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
So far, California and Colorado have passed legislation that will ban “alien” and “illegal alien” from state statutes; State Senator Julie Gonzales (D) of Colorado, who supported her state’s version of the language bill, claimed that referring to individuals who are in the country illegally as “illegal” is “dehumanizing and derogatory.”
“That language has been offensive for many people,” Gonzales said. “And some of the rationale behind that is really rooted in this idea that a person can certainly commit an illegal act, but no human being themselves is illegal.”
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A similar bill introduced in the Texas legislature – one of the U.S. states hit hardest by illegal immigration – lacked support and ultimately failed to advance.
The movement to remove these terms from state statues follows a previous move by the Biden Administration to change federal policies in terms of language used to describe immigrants. In April, employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection were mandated to stop using words such as “alien” – both publicly and within internal documentation – using “noncitizen” or “migrant,” and “undocumented noncitizen” instead of “illegal alien.”
The Biden Admin later forbade federal immigration agents from using the terms “illegal alien,” “assimilation,” and “alien,” and the Department of Homeland Security is required to use the term “non-citizens.”
In addition, Democratic members of the House of Representatives have made attempts to police language potentially offensive to immigrants as well; in January, 12 members of the House Hispanic Caucus introduced a bill that, if passed, would ban federal agencies from using the term “alien.”