Two US states have banned state agencies from using the word “extraterrestrialTo describe the undocumented.
The change has been enacted in California and Colorado, and several other states are considering similar legislation.
Immigrants and immigrant rights groups say that the use of “foreigner” – especially when paired with “illegal” – is dehumanizing and can have a detrimental effect on immigration policy.
In California, Democratic lawmaker Luz Rivas drafted a bill that replaces the use of “alien” in descriptions of state laws with terms such as “non-citizen” or “immigrant.”
Rivas told The Associated Press that she remembered as a child seeing the word alien over her mother’s note. residence identification. For the government, that meant her mother was not yet a citizen of the United States. But for her, it meant the family didn’t belong, even though they were crossing the naturalization to treat.
“I want other children of immigrants, like me, to not feel the same as me, that my family felt, when we saw the word ‘foreigner’,” Rivas said.
The word became a topic of debate in several states earlier this year as the number of migrants at the US-Mexico border rose sharply. Lawmakers in at least seven states have considered removing the use of the terms “foreign” and “illegal” from state laws, reports the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Colorado is the other state to formalize the change. State Senator Julie Gonzales co-authored the Colorado law. She told a legislative committee that words like “illegal” were “dehumanizing and pejorative. The law removed the term ‘illegal alien’ from state law used to describe people living illegally in the United States.
âThis language has been offensive to a lot of people,â Gonzales said. “And some of the reasoning behind that is really rooted in this idea that a person can certainly do an illegal act, but no human being himself is illegal.
The use of the word “foreigner” to describe non-US citizens has a long history. It dates back to the country’s first naturalization law, passed by the first American president, George Washington. Fearing war with France, Congress also passed the Aliens and Sedition Laws in 1798, which sought to reduce political subversion.
Steps to stop the word extraterrestrial have been criticized by some lawmakers. Sage Naumann is spokesperson for the Republicans in the Colorado Senate. He told the AP he didn’t think most Coloradans or Americans cared about “what a semicontroversial the words are buried “in the laws of the state.
He said the Democrat-controlled legislature should devote its time to issues of deeper importance to citizens, such as measures to fight inflation, reduce crime and improve education.
The federal government has also taken action on this issue. In April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection ordered workers to avoid using the word “foreign” in agency documents and public communications. Employees were instructed to use ânon-citizenâ or âmigrantâ instead. The term âillegal alienâ has also been deleted and replaced with descriptions such as âundocumented non-citizenâ.
The agency’s acting director, Troy Miller, said the change was intended to protect “the dignity of every individual we interact with.
But US Border Patrol chief Rodney Scott objected to the agency’s order. He argued that the change went against the current language of criminal law. “Changing the law is good, but until then you are really politicizing the mission“said Scott.
I am Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
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Words in this story
extraterrestrial – not. someone who does not legally belong to the country where they live or work
residence – not. the state of living in a place
naturalization – not. making someone a legal citizen of a country in which they were not born
pejorative – adj. show strong disapproval and not show respect
reasoning – not. the reasons or intentions that cause a particular set of beliefs or actions
controversial – adj. causing disagreement or discussion
dignity – not. calm, serious and controlled behavior that makes people respect you
mission – not. any work that someone believes it is their duty to do