Jerry Brown Bans the Word ‘Alien’ from California Labor Law

Dictionary (See-ming Lee / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
See-ming Lee / Flickr / CC / Cropped

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Monday that bans the word “alien” from the state’s labor laws.

SB 432, introduced by State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), removes the term “alien,” previously defined as “any person who is not a born or fully naturalized citizen of the United States.” It also removed the state’s preference for hiring U.S. citizens on public works projects during periods of unemployment.

The bill passed the State Senate unanimously. Mendoza said at the time the State Senate approved the bill that the term “alien” was “offensive,” adding: “It has no place in our laws and should not be the basis of employment hiring.” Last month, as the State Assembly added its approval, he said: “Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign -born person and has very negative connotations.”

The only vote against the bill came in the State Assembly, from Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), who told the San Francisco Chronicle that the bill was “just a way for legislators to get their names in the paper….[t]he negative connotations come from the fact that people are breaking the law. Changing the word won’t change the fact that folks are here illegally.”

Mendoza was exultant Monday, as his bill was signed into law. He was joined in his enthusiasm by Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, who told the Chronicle, “The word ‘alien’ has incredibly racist and un-American connotations.”

The federal government still uses the term “alien” to describe foreigners legally or illegally present. Other states also still use the term.

The law takes effect Jan. 1.



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