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California Bans The Term 'Alien' From Law


For some, the word may conjure images of extraterrestrial creatures with huge eyes and too-long limbs, but in California, the word won’t be associated with immigrants anymore. 

On Aug. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a set of bills that remove the word “alien” from the state’s labor code because it can be seen as a derogatory term for immigrants. The term has been in use since 1937, but it will be retired when the law takes effect on Jan 1, SCPR reported.

“Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations,” Democratic state Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia, the author of the bill, told the Los Angeles Times. “The United States is a country of immigrants who not only form an integral part of our culture and society, but are also critical contributors to our economic success.”

Though the term is sill present in federal laws, but a growing number of people consider it inappropriate. “The concern is that the use of the word ‘alien’ would dehumanize the people affected” and lead to “lack of protections under the law,” said Kevin R. Johnson, dean of Public Interest Law and professor of Chicana/Chicano Studies at UC Davis.

Though the use of the term ‘alien’ has only recently fallen out of favor in the context of the law, for the last several years the media has started using other words. In 2013, Pew Research Center found just 5 percent of media outlets used the term “illegal alien” that year, compared to 21 percent six years earlier. The Associated Press guidelines, which are considered the industry standard for style, also state that “illegal alien” shouldn’t be used in reference to immigrants.

Sources: Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, SCPR Image via miss_millions/Flickr


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