California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill to remove the word “alien” from the state’s code, saying the term is outdated and discriminatory toward illegal immigrants.
The word “alien” in California law will be replaced by “noncitizen” or “immigrant.”
“As the nation’s most diverse state, we are stronger and more vibrant because of our immigrant communities,” Newsom said in a statement.
“This important legislation removes the word ‘alien,’ which is not only an offensive term for a human being, but for far too long has fueled a divisive and hurtful narrative. By changing this term, we are ensuring California’s laws reflect our state’s values,” the governor added.
Newsom’s office has previously condemned the word “alien” in stronger terms, calling it “a political dog whistle to express bigotry and hatred without using traditionally racist language.”
California has already passed laws in recent years that scratched “alien” from the state’s labor and education code.
Since at least 1798, when the “Aliens and Sedition Acts” were passed, the U.S. federal government has used “alien” to refer to non-citizens who are present in the country.
Over the last decade, however, the term has been slammed as a slur, especially by Democrats.
In April, President Joe Biden ordered two federal immigration agencies, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to stop referring to migrants as “aliens.” Instead, employees were directed to say “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual.”
“We use the term ‘illegal alien’ because they’re here illegally,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) at the time. “This kind of weakness and obsession with political correctness is why we’re having a crisis on the border in the first place.”
California’s move comes as the immigration crisis worsens in other border states, particularly Texas.
Over the past several weeks, an influx of more than 14,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, including families, pregnant women, and babies camped near the Del Rio International Bridge. The camp was eventually fully cleared out by Friday, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it will reopen the port of entry in the area, which had been closed for a week after it was overwhelmed with migrants.
The situation had already deteriorated significantly in July, when border authorities encountered more than 212,000 migrants, the highest number since March 2000. In August, authorities encountered 209,000 people attempting to cross the border, compared to 50,000 people in the same month last year.
So far this year, authorities have encountered more than 1.4 million migrants at the southern border.
Earlier this month, Newsom won handily in a highly-anticipated recall election, a Republican attempt to oust him as California governor.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental, constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body and her fate and future,” Newsom said as polls showed him surviving the recall vote.
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