New York Times (Taking Note)
By Ernesto Londono
October 23, 2015
Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas introduced a bill this week that would require the federal government to do away with the term “alien” in immigration forms and and other government records.
If Mr. Castro prevails, all uses of “alien” in federal law would be changed to “foreign national.”
That would be an easy, quick way to phase out a term that many immigrants find offensive.
“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,” Mr. Castro said in a statement. “Regardless of status, immigrants to our nation are first and foremost human beings. Removing the term ‘alien’ from our federal laws shows respect to our shared heritage and to the hundreds of millions of descendants of immigrants who call America home.”
Mr. Castro’s office pointed out that as language has evolved, lawmakers have passed bills to strip out offensive, anachronistic terms such as “lunatic” and “mentally retarded” from federal statutes.
The bill was introduced on Wednesday, a day after the Times published an editorial calling on Congress to retire the term. Erin Hatch, a spokeswoman for Mr. Castro, said the congressman had been working on the bill for a few months.
As of Thursday, he had 43 co-sponsors, she said. Since it’s unlikely to be approved as a standalone bill, Mr. Castro, who represents a largely Hispanic district in San Antonio, will seek to slip the change as an amendment in an immigration bill as soon as possible.
“Words matter, particularly in the context of an issue as contentious as immigration,” Mr. Castro’s statement said. “Discontinuing our use of the term ‘alien’ will help lessen the prejudice and vitriol that for too long have poisoned our nation’s discussions around immigration reform.”
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