The California State Senate approved a bill to remove the term “alien” from the California Labor Code on May 1. Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), chair of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, introduced SB 432 this past February.
Currently, the term “alien” is used to refer to “any person not a citizen or national of the United States,” according to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School. The term “alien” has a long history in the U.S. and has been included in laws, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, which granted the early U.S. government the power to deport foreigners deemed dangerous to the country. Furthermore, the terms “illegal alien” and “unauthorized alien” are frequently used in U.S. laws and statutes.
Mendoza feels that the term holds a negative connotation and should no longer be used.
“The time has come for California to remove the term ‘alien’ from the state’s Labor Code,” Mendoza said in a press conference. “Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations. SB 432 will modernize the Labor Code and removes the term ‘alien’ to describe a person who is not born in or a fully naturalized citizen of the United States.”
Mendoza added that the term “alien” can become problematic in the hiring process and troublesome for new immigrants looking for jobs.
“The word ‘alien’ and any law prescribing an order for the issuance of employment to ‘aliens,’ have no place in the laws of our state and, more importantly, should never be the basis of an employment hiring,” Mendoza said. “SB 432 will delete this outdated, discriminatory and unnecessary reference in state law.”
The Online Journal of the Migration Policy Institute reported that, in 2013, there were 41.3 million immigrants residing in the U.S. This means that 20 percent of the world’s migrants live in the U.S. The journal also reports that when including the children of immigrants in the U.S., that number then becomes 80 million. Essentially, this reveals that over 25 percent of the U.S. population is either first or second generation. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Treasury reported that 10.8 percent of all firms are owned by immigrants.
Mendoza further elaborated on this issue by stating that California has numerous immigrants and that the term “alien” is unnecessary.
“California is among the top destination states for immigrants in the U.S.,” Mendoza said. “Given the abundant evidence of their many contributions, it is imperative that any derogative references to foreign-born individuals be repealed from state law.”
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also finds the term “alien” offensive.
“To call them illegal aliens seemed and does seem insulting to me,” Sotomayor said in a speech about immigration at Yale Law School.
CNN News Correspondent Charles Garcia also pointed out that calling individuals illegal aliens is misleading.
“The term illegal alien suggests that individuals, rather than actions, are unlawful,” Garcia said in a news conference.
SB 432 will soon go into effect after being approved by the Senate with a unanimous vote.