Politics

California, Colorado consider dropping terms for immigrants such as ‘alien’ and ‘illegal’

Earlier this year, California and Colorado banned stage agencies from using the term “alien” to characterize immigrants who entered the United States illegally.

Those in support of the change said the word is dehumanizing and demeaning, which can translate to negative treatment of immigrants.

Legislators in at least seven states this year have also considered putting a stop to the use of the word “alien” and “illegal” in state statutes. The alternative would be replacing the words with descriptions like “undocumented” and “noncitizen,” as reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California and Colorado were the only two to actually enact the change. Luz Rivas, an assemblywoman in the California Legislature, authored the California bill that was signed into law. “I want all Californians that are contributing to our society, that are small business owners, that work hard, to feel that they are part of California communities,” said Rivas.

The Biden administration also moved to retire the term “alien” from federal use, which Rivas said inspired her effort to move the initiative to the state level. Rivas said she remembered seeing the word on her mother’s residency card as a child.

Although her family was going through the naturalization process, the term made her feel like her family did not belong. “I want other children of immigrants, like me, to not feel the same way I did, that my family did, when we saw the word ‘alien’,” she said.

In April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection told employees to stop using the word “alien” in public communications and internal documents in favor of “noncitizen” or “migrant.” “Illegal alien” was also cut, which was replaced by descriptions like “undocumented citizen.”

Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott objected to the order, telling others in the agency that it contradicted language in criminal statutes. He refused to sign off on the order. 

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NBC NEWS

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