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Some states dropping ‘dehumanizing’ terms for immigrants

2021-11-27 15:16:01 –

Austin, Texas — Luz Rivas remembers seeing the word “alien” on his mother’s residence card as a kid.

Under harsh government conditions, it showed that her mother was not yet a US citizen, but for her young daughter, the term had a more personal meaning. They were in the process of naturalization, which meant that the family did not belong.

“I don’t want other immigrant children like me to feel the same as my family did when we saw the word” foreigner, “” now California. Rivas, a member of the state legislature, said.

Democrats have called for retirement and have since signed the bill this year, creating a bill that replaces the use of “foreigners” in state law with other terms such as “non-citizens” and “immigrants.” Her efforts were inspired by similar changes by the Biden administration earlier this year.

Immigrants and Immigrant Rights Groups state that the term can deprive humanity and adversely affect immigration policy, especially when combined with “illegal.”

The term became the focus of debate in several states earlier this year as the number of immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border increased, leading to fierce opposition to the Biden administration’s policies by Republican governors and legislators. ..

At least seven state legislators have abolished the use of “foreigners” and “illegal” in this year’s state law, explaining “undocumented” and “non-citizens,” according to the National Assembly of Parliamentarians. I considered replacing it with.

Only two states, California and Colorado, have actually made changes.

“I want all Californians who are small business owners and hard-working people who contribute to our society to feel they are part of the California community.” Said Rivas about the reasons behind her law.

Senator Julie Gonzales, who co-sponsored the new Colorado law, said in a legislative hearing that words such as “illegal” were “inhuman and derogatory” when applied to immigrants. According to Gonzales, the law aims to remove the only place in Colorado law where “illegal aliens” were used to represent people who live illegally in the United States.

“The word was offensive to many,” she said. “And some of the rationale behind it is really rooted in this idea that humans can certainly commit illegal acts, but humans themselves are not.”

The use of “aliens” to represent non-US citizens has a long history dating back to the first naturalization law in the United States, which was passed while George Washington was president. Fearing the war with France, Parliament also passed the Sedition Act in 1798, which aimed to curb political destruction.

Changing the long-standing government term for immigration is not universally accepted as necessary or desirable.

Colorado Senate Republican spokesman Sage Naumann said Democratic parliaments should spend time on issues that are more important to residents, such as fighting inflation, tackling crime, and improving education. Stated.

“The average Colorado, or American, cares about the controversial language being buried in state law,” Naumann said.

The Biden administration also received some backlash after the policy change.

In April, the US Customs and Border Protection ordered employees to use “non-citizens” or “immigrants” instead of the word “foreigners” in internal documents and public relations. “Illegal aliens” have also appeared and have been replaced by descriptions such as “undocumented non-citizens.”

“We enforce the laws of our country while maintaining the dignity of all the individuals we interact with,” said Troy Miller, acting commissioner, the largest US law enforcement agency, including border patrols. I wrote a letter to an employee of the institution. “The words we use are important and help give more dignity to those under our control.”

Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott disagreed and wrote to others in the agency that the Edict was inconsistent with the wording of the criminal law-although Miller made an exception to the legal document-and the agency. It plunged into a partisan debate. Scott, the appointed man of the Trump era, refused to approve the order and believes his candidness on it and other issues contributed to his expulsion from his position in June. ..

“It’s okay to change the law, but until then you’re really politicizing your mission,” Scott said in an interview.

Analysis by the Associated Press (people do not call people “aliens” except for direct citations) shows that more than 12 states still use the term “alien” or “illegal” in immigrant legislation. I did. Among them was Texas, which, with bipartisan support this year, was unable to hold a hearing in front of the entire Texas House, although legislative attempts to move to different terms were removed from the committee. ..

Democratic Parliamentarian Art Fierro said he expected a “kickback” when he initially proposed the change. However, following the Commission’s discussion, he surprisingly stated that this change was seen by both parties as an effort to use the more “dignified, respectful” term. He said he proposed a change because he felt the original conditions were irrelevant to those who wanted to work through the immigration process.

Fierro said he plans to introduce another bill to replace the terms during the next regular legislative session of the state in 2023.

“We are just trying to treat people humanely,” he said.

Rosalidia Durdon knows from her personal experience why the language surrounding immigrants is so important.

After escaping violence in El Salvador, she arrived at a refugee home in Texas in 2016 after spending about 16 months at a California immigration detention center. She decided to find a job while seeking asylum, but lost her work visa after being protected. The status has expired.

Dardon, 54, blames the immigrant’s description in terms such as the ankle monitor she needs to wear and the “illegal” job hunting marked by the refusal after refusal.

A certain moment remains frozen in her memory.

“I won’t give you a job because you’re a criminal,” Dardon told AP in Spanish, repeating what the Texas recruitment manager told her.

“Ask yourself and God why you were given an ankle monitor when your only sin was to go to a country other than your own,” said Dardon, a pending immigration proceeding. “Without Latinos, the country would spiral downwards, which is why we should be treated better.”

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Associated Press writer Patty Nieberg of Denver and Elliot Spagat of San Diego contributed to this report. Coronado is a corps member of the Associated Press / American Capitol News Initiative Report. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues.

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