Fight brews over forcing library to use ‘illegal alien’

Fight brews over forcing library to use ‘illegal alien’
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A fight over illegal immigration is making its way into a typically noncontroversial annual spending bill to fund legislative branch activities.

Republicans are trying to reverse a decision made by the Library of Congress in March to stop using the term “illegal aliens” in its subject headings, which it deemed “pejorative,” and replace the phrase with “noncitizens” or “unauthorized immigration.”

But Democrats, led by members of the Congressional Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and Black caucuses, are protesting the inclusion of a measure to force the Library of Congress to use “illegal aliens” again in the annual legislative branch spending bill that provides funding for the institution.


In a letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, the chairmen of the three caucuses urged the panel to eliminate the provision ahead of a Tuesday markup of the bill.

“Dated and dehumanizing terms such as ‘illegal alien’ and ‘alien’ have taken on a highly negative connotation and perpetuate the denigration of immigrant communities,” Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldLobbying world The Memo: How liberal will the Biden presidency be? Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE (D-N.C.) wrote in the letter on Monday.

Democrats’s objections foreshadow debate that may follow the bill when it reaches the House floor for a vote. 

GOP lawmakers opposed to the change made by the Library of Congress have proposed a variety of legislative options to return the use of “illegal alien,” such as a bill introduced by Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (R-Tenn.) last month. 

“Hopefully this bill will give Washington the push needed to stop thinking up the most politically correct ways to describe illegal immigration and start thinking about solutions to address it," Black said in a statement at the time. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Julian Castro (D-Texas) has proposed legislation that goes beyond the Library of Congress’s decision and would remove the word “alien” from federal law entirely. Instead, immigrants would be referred to as “foreign nationals” or “undocumented foreign nationals.”

It’s not the first time in recent days that lawmakers have debated changing descriptions in federal text to accommodate concerns that they are considered outdated or pejorative. Congress last week sent legislation to President Obama that eliminates remaining use of words like “Oriental” and “Negro” in federal law.