Virginia lawmakers approve bill to replace ‘alien’ in state code

In a section of Virginia law dealing with minority-owned businesses, the wording specifies that such businesses must be owned by a U.S. citizen or “lawful resident alien.”

Another law states that arms dealers cannot hire an “illegal alien” as a salesman.

These are just two of dozens of places where the word “alien” appears in Virginia code to refer to both documented and undocumented immigrants. But the word won’t stay there for long.

In a nod to a growing consensus that the word extraterrestrial is offensive, Virginia’s General Assembly has approved legislation to update the state’s code with more appropriate language.

For example, the bill replaces “lawful resident aliens” with “lawfully admitted permanent residents”. Similarly, “illegal alien” is replaced by “illegally present in the United States”.

Of the. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, the bill’s sponsor, noted that even federal immigration agencies have stopped using the word “due to its use as an insult.” Last year, the Biden administration ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection to stop using the words “alien” and “assimilation” when referring to immigrants. , according to the Washington Post. In a statement released after the bill was approved by the Republican-led House of Delegates earlier this month, Lopez said Virginia was set to become the first Southern state to follow suit. .

“As a nation with such a rich and proud immigration history, it is unacceptable that our laws continue to use language that has become synonymous with xenophobia and racial bigotry,” Lopez said. “This bill sends an important message: that immigrants are welcome in Virginia.”

The bill won’t remove all references from Virginia’s code, Lopez said in legislative hearings, because some are tied to specific federal programs, such as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program that allows governments state and local immigration check. status of anyone seeking a public license or benefit.

“We’ve exempted each of the areas where there might be a problematic political issue,” Lopez said.

Some Republicans voted against the legislation, but there was little opposition speech. The bill passed the House 78-19. On Monday, he passed the state Senate 22-18.

In the Senate, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, said the bill was being proposed because “apparently some people think the word extraterrestrial has negative implications.”

“I don’t. But some people do,” Edwards said. “So we’re changing the name to make it clear.”

The bill now goes to Governor Glenn Youngkin for final action.

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