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Biden wants to make the word 'illegal' illegal in the US

This is just a small part of the radical immigration reform being pursued by newly elected President Joe Biden. But the symbolic meaning is enormous. Biden's proposed law, if passed, would remove the word "alien" from US immigration laws and replace it with the term "non-citizen" (noncitizen). Writes about it CNN.

Photo: Shutterstock

According to the bill, this is a deliberate move designed to make the United States "a nation of immigrants."

The term "foreigner" has long been condemned by immigrant rights advocates as an inhuman insult. During the Donald Trump era, some senior federal officials encouraged its use, and several state and local governments took action to ban it.

“The name change on the first day of this administration, with Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants, is not just symbolic for me, it's fundamental,” says Jose Antonio Vargas, an illegal immigrant whose Define American advocates for immigrant rights.

“It is very important how we characterize people. It affects how we treat them, he says. - The way we talk about immigrants also shapes our opinion about them. It determines what problems are really posed here. It confirms that we are talking about people and families. "

What the laws say now

US Code currently defines "alien" as "any person who is not a citizen of the United States."

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In the past, officials have pointed to the predominance of the term in US law to protect their choice of words.

In 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed prosecutors to call someone who is in the United States illegally an "illegal alien", citing US code.

The term "illegal" was often used by President Trump in speeches when he warned of the dangers of uncontrolled illegal immigration.

Speaking on the border with Mexico last week in one of his last addresses as president, Trump used the term at least five times.

“In the Trump administration, we have been the eternal scapegoat,” Vargas said. "When Trump got into trouble, he started talking about illegal immigrants and the border."

But not everyone in the Trump administration was a fan of the word.

In an interview with the Washington Post, published shortly before he stepped down as acting head of the Department of Homeland Security in 2019, Kevin McAlinan said he avoids using the term "illegal immigrants" and instead refers to people as "immigrants."

“I think words matter a lot,” McAlinan said. "If you alienate half of your audience with terminology, it will prevent you from ever winning an argument."

This is not the first attempt to change this wording.

California struck out the word "alien" from the state labor code back in 2015.

Last year, New York City removed the term from its statutes and administrative codes.

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In 2019 regulations, the City of New York banned the term an illegal alien when it is used “with the intent to humiliate or intimidate a person.” Authorities have warned that violations could result in fines of up to $ 250.

And last year, two Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill to replace an illegal alien with an undocumented immigrant. The bill was never submitted to a vote in the State Senate.

The term gained popularity early in the Trump administration

One of the earliest cases in which the use of the term "alien" gained widespread attention during the Trump administration occurred in 2017, when officials posted a hotline for victims of "removable aliens."

This sparked a wave of pranks about space aliens, with people sharing examples of their comments about Martians and UFOs on social media.

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But Vargas says this and other terms used to demonize immigrants are no laughing matter.

“Words are powerful. And I think we saw it in the Trump administration, how it used inhuman terms and how it humiliated people, ”Vargas said.

He is glad that the new administration’s attempt to use more respectful language gives him hope that the views of some Americans on illegal immigrants may also change. Changing just one word, he said, could have far-reaching consequences for millions of people.

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