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Library of Congress to Eliminate Terms ‘Illegal Alien’ and ‘Alien’

The Library of Congress is dropping the terms “illegal alien” and “alien” from its subject headings after a group of college students and the American Library Association protested the words’ usage.

As early as May, the Library of Congress will begin revising its subject headings and replacing “Aliens” with “Noncitizens” and heading references to “Illegal aliens” with “Noncitizens” and “Unauthorized immigration.”

“[The Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress] concluded that the meaning of Aliens is often misunderstood and should be revised to Noncitizens, and that the phrase illegal aliens has become pejorative,” the Library explained in its Executive Summary about the changes.

“The heading Illegal aliens will therefore be cancelled and replaced by two headings, Noncitizens and Unauthorized immigration, which may be assigned together to describe resources about people who illegally reside in a country,” it added.

The Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers (CoFIRED), a Dartmouth student group that has been pressing for the change, declared the move a victory for their cause and called on additional institutions to cease using use term “illegal” to describe illegal immigrants.

“We call on both politicians and media outlets to follow the precedent set by the Library of Congress,” Dennise Hernandez, Co­Director of CoFIRED, said in a statement. “It is way past time that we all recognize that referring to immigrants as “illegal” is an offensive, dehumanizing term and that there is no excuse to continue using it.”

Recently the trend has been to eliminate references to “illegal aliens.” Last year California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation to remove the term “alien” from the state’s labor code. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) introduced legislation this Congress that would eliminate the terms “alien” and “illegal alien” from federal statute and agency materials.

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