House bill would remove the term 'alien' from federal law

Getty Images

A bill introduced in the House on Thursday would change how immigrants are referred in federal laws.

Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) has introduced the Correcting Hurtful and Alienating Names in Government Expression Act. The bill would remove the term "illegal alien" and replace it with "undocumented foreign national” and keep executive branch agencies from using “alien” or "illegal alien" in signage and literature.

ADVERTISEMENT
"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 release.

"Regardless of status, immigrants to our nation are first and foremost human beings. Removing the term 'alien' from our federal laws shows respect to our shared heritage and to the hundreds of millions of descendants of immigrants who call America home."

Congress has passed similar legislation before to remove offensive language from federal law, including the 21st Century Language Act, which removed the term “lunatic,” and Rosa's Law, which removed the term “mentally retarded."

"Words matter, particularly in the context of an issue as contentious as immigration," Castro said.

"Discontinuing our use of the term 'alien' will help lessen the prejudice and vitriol that for too long have poisoned our nation's discussions around immigration reform," he added.