California will get rid of the term “alien” from its state laws, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who described it as an “offensive word for a person that has fueled a divisive and harmful narrative.”
On Friday, Newsom signed a bill that removes the term from sections of the California state code. In 2015 and 2016, California adopted laws eliminating the phrase from its labor and education codes.
However, the bill Newsom signed on Friday ensures that all state laws will now be free of the term. The word “noncitizen” or “immigrant” will be used instead.
“We are correcting this phrase to ensure that California’s laws reflect our state’s principles,” Newsom added.
Since at least 1798, the federal government has referred to people in the United States who are not citizens as “aliens” with the enactment of the “Aliens and Sedition Acts. But Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, a Democratic representative from Arleta, said that the word “has been weaponized and has been used in place of expressly racial epithets to dehumanize immigrants.”
“The words we use and the language we adopt in our laws matter — ‘alien’ must be expunged from California law immediately,” Rivas declared.
In recent years, governments, libraries, and news organizations have been revising their immigration language. In 2013, the Associated Press updated its widely used stylebook to discourage the usage of words like “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant.” Harvard Library announced in March that it was eliminating the term “illegal alien” from its cataloging language.
In April, U.S. President Joe Biden instructed federal immigration authorities to cease referring to people as “aliens.” The change is California’s latest attempt to update the language of its rules. Earlier this year, Newsom signed bills that added gender-neutral wording in-laws about the California Conservation Corps and other statewide elected offices.
Even though Kamala Harris, California’s first female attorney general, and Eleni Kounalakis, the state’s first woman to be elected lieutenant governor, had been referring to the state Attorney General and lieutenant governor as “he” and “him,” respectively, the laws had used male pronouns. California is one of a few states that subsidize health coverage for low-income children and some illegal immigrants.
On Friday, the governor also signed bills that defined hate crimes against individuals on the basis of their immigration status and required private detention facilities in California to follow local and state public health laws.