The Library of Congress has announced that it will remove the term "illegal alien" from its catalogue. Instead, in its records, the library will refer to people residing in the U.S. without legal status as "noncitizens."
The Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and Dreamers (CoFIRED) had been lobbying the Library of Congress to amend its records since 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The student organization argued that the phrase "illegal alien" was a racist term used to dehumanize immigrants.
On March 22, the Library of Congress issued an executive summary announcing that “illegal alien” would be altered into “noncitizen” and that “illegal immigration” would now be “unauthorized immigration” in their records.
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“The phrase illegal aliens has taken on a pejorative tone in recent years, and in response, some institutions have determined they will cease to use it,” the executive summary explained.
Several news organizations have ceased referring to individuals as “illegals,” although the term has remained popular during the Republican primary.
“We are calling on politicians and the news media to continue the precedent set by the Library of Congress,” said Dennis Hernandez, co-director of CoFIRED. “Now is the time for all to recognize that referring to undocumented immigrants as ‘illegals’ is offensive.”
CoFIRED has actually requested that “illegal immigrants” be changed to “undocumented immigrants,” but the Library of Congress countered that that descriptor was inaccurate, citing that many noncitizens do actually have some form of documentation.
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“Alien” remains in the U.S. immigration code, but Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas has proposed legislation to change the word. His bill was introduced in October 2015 but remains stalled in Congress.
“America is a nation of immigrants, yet our federal government continues to use terms that dehumanize and ostracize those in our society who happen to have been born elsewhere,” Castro told NBC News.
There has already been some pushback against the Library of Congress’ decision.
On April 14, Republican Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee introduced legislation that would force the library to continue using the term “illegal alien” in its records, Roll Call reports.
“Hopefully this bill will give Washington the push needed to stop thinking up the most politically correct ways to describe illegal immigration and start thinking about solutions to address it,” Black said.