Removing the term ‘alien’ from federal laws

The term “alien” has taken on a negative connotation over the last few years. With the issue of immigration reform so prevalent in the U.S., immigration-reform advocates are fighting to remove the term from federal documents so as not to offend immigrants.

Castro leads the way
Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, introduced a bill that would effectively remove the term “alien” in any and all federal documents and replace it with the more politically correct term “foreign national.” The name of the bill is the Correcting Hurtful and Alienating Names in Government Expression Act, also known as the CHANGE act. His argument is that the term is disrespectful to hardworking immigrants who live in and positively contribute to America. The bill has at least 43 cosponsors already, according to The New York Times.

Castro is quick to point out that the use of the term “alien” has been around since 1790 in the form of the Nationalization Act. The main difference is that when the term was introduced in the 1790 bill, an “alien” was the equivalent of a free white person. Now, according to Castro and others, the term has devolved into a negative expression. It’s particularly inappropriate given the nature of the beginnings of this country.

“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 said in a statement.

Trump ignores criticism 
Despite the fact that immigration reform has made its way to center stage in the political arena, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is not backing down from what many consider to be offensive views on the issue. His immigration policy proposal features the use of the word “alien,” and he has no plans to revise it. Instead, Trump has asserted that he does not have the time to be politically correct.

Not the first time
Castro’s bill is not the first of its kind. There have been multiple bills introduced in an effort to remove certain terminology or phrasing from federal law, according to the Latin Post. But this law is the first to focus on words deemed offensive to minority groups, specifically immigrants.

The 21st Century Language Act of 2012 effectively took the word “lunatic” out of the language found in federal documents and records. Rosa’s Law, signed into law in 2010, swapped the term “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disabilities.”