California to remove the ‘offensive’ word ‘alien’ from its laws

The state’s leader said that ‘by changing this term, we are ensuring California’s laws reflect our state’s values’.

Gavin Newsom speaks to the press
Gavin Newsom speaks to the press

California will remove the word “alien” from its state laws after Governor Gavin Newsom called it “an offensive term for a human being” that has “fuelled a divisive and hurtful narrative”.

Mr Newsom on Friday signed a law that removes the word from various sections of the California state code. California passed laws in 2015 and 2016 that removed the word from the state’s labour and education code.

But the law signed on Friday finishes the job by removing the word from all state laws, with it to be replaced with terms like “non-citizen” or “immigrant”.

“By changing this term, we are ensuring California’s laws reflect our state’s values,” Mr Newsom said.

The federal government has used the term “alien” to describe people in the US who are not citizens since at least 1798 with the passage of the “Aliens and Sedition Acts.”

But Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, a Democrat from the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Arleta, said the word “has become weaponised and has been used in place of explicitly racial slurs to dehumanise immigrants.”

“The words we say and the language we adopt in our laws matter — this racist term ‘alien’ must be removed from California statute immediately,” Ms Rivas said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows media a package of information
California Governor Gavin Newsom (Ron Holman/The Times-Delta/AP)

Governments, libraries and news agencies have been updating its immigration language in recent years.

The Associated Press updated its widely used stylebook in 2013 to advise against using the phrase “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant”, while Harvard Library announced in March it was removing the phrase “illegal alien” from its cataloguing language.

And in April, US President Joe Biden ordered federal immigration agencies to stop referring to migrants as “aliens.”

The change is California’s latest effort to modernise the language of its laws.

Mr Newsom signed laws earlier this year to insert gender neutral language in laws about the California Conservation Corps and statewide elected officers.

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