Joaquin Castro Wants to Remove ‘Illegal’ and ‘Alien’ From Federal Immigration Law


Democratic Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro and his twin brother, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Julián Castro,   introduced legislation that would remove derogatory terms used to refer to immigrants from the federal government’s lexicon, Think Progress reports.

The Correcting Alienating Names in Government Act, or CHANGE Act, would eliminate the words “alien” and “illegal alien” from the Immigration and Nationality Act and other government texts. The terms “foreign national” and “undocumented foreign national” are recommended to be used in their place.

In a statement released by Castro, he said, “Words matter. It’s vital that we respect the dignity of immigrants fleeing violence and prosecution in our language. The words ‘alien’ and ‘illegal alien’ work to demonize and dehumanize the migrant community. They should have no place in our government’s description of human beings.”

Joaquin, who is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, has been vocal in the past about the need for immigration reform, stating that he remains hopeful that eventually, it will happen.

“Immigrants come to our borders in good faith and work hard for the opportunity to achieve a better life for themselves and their family. Eliminating this language from government expression puts us one step closer to preserving their dignity and ensuring their safety,” he adds.

In the past, Castro has also criticized Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other Republican candidates for turning the discussion over immigration and immigration reform into a “nasty one.”

“They have made it harder for the parties to come together and for Americans to come together on a solution. I think that this ugly moment will pass, and ultimately I think that it will find confidence,” he told the Harvard Political Review.

According to nonprofit racial justice organization Race Forward, in the week following the 2016 presidential election, over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment in schools that could be directly traced to election rhetoric. The organization is also working to eliminate the term “illegal” altogether through their Drop the I-Word campaign, where they discuss how anti-immigrant rhetoric strongly influences the criminalization of these communities.

Define American, an organization founded by undocumented immigrant and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, points out how “illegal immigrant” isn’t factually correct. “Living in the U.S. without legal authorization (unlawful presence) is a civil offense, while improper entry (crossing the border), is a misdemeanor. It should be noted, that because many undocumented immigrants arrived legally, they have not committed a crime,” the website states. 

Earlier this year, Mexican-American journalist Maria Hinojosa tweeted that no human is illegal in response to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s use of the term on air.

“It’s not Illegal Workers. No such thing as an illegal human being. So, for example, no such thing as an illegal driver, illegal bike rider, illegal worker, illegal immigrant. The bike rider may have committed a crime but he is not illegal. Illegal is an action,” she wrote in a tweet. 

Castro’s bill comes after the Trump administration launched ICE raids and continues to redefine U.S. asylum law. With the border crisis seemingly worsening, Castor’s bill passing could be a signal of positive change to come.

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