Latino, Asian and black Democratic House members are fighting Republican efforts to force the Library of Congress to use the term “illegal alien,” a phrase many consider to be pejorative and that library leaders chose to stop using.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus signed onto a letter sent Monday by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) to the House appropriations committee.
It urged the committee to remove a provision requiring the Library of Congress to use the terms “aliens” and “illegal aliens” in its subject headings.
“Terms and how they are defined by society change with time. As meanings of words evolve with the times, so should our usage of those terms,” the letter reads.
The letter went on to say that “dated and dehumanizing terms such as ‘illegal alien’ and ‘alien’ have taken on a highly negative connotation and perpetuate the denigration of immigrant communities.”
This March, the Library of Congress made the decision to use the term “noncitizens” in place of “aliens” in subject headings and to replace “illegal alien” with “noncitizen” and “unauthorized immigration.” Some Republicans balked at that change.
House appropriations committee chairman Tom Graves (R-Ga.) argued that the subcommittee was not making a political statement surrounding the terminology, but rather attempting to ensure the language chosen by the Library of Congress matches that of the U.S. legal code.
Despite the Library of Congress’ decision to eliminate the language, the appropriators included a provision in the legislative branch funding proposal for the 2017 fiscal year that would force the Library of Congress to use the term.
“In the past, as society has come to understand the pain certain words can cause communities, we’ve done the right thing and eliminated those terms from our acceptable vocabulary,” Castro said in a press statement. “The Appropriations Committee should continue that progress now, not move our nation backwards and unnecessarily perpetuate a negative stigma.”