It appears Republican lawmakers didn’t get the memo about the importance of dropping the i-word. After the Library of Congress scrubbed the term “illegal aliens” from its classification system and swapped in “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration,” Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee introduced a provision that would tie the institution’s 2017 fiscal year funding to its reinstatement of the pejorative term.
As The Huffington Post reports, the appropriations bill includes the following language: “To the extent practical, the committee instructs the library to maintain certain subject headings that reflect terminology used in Title 8 of the United States code.”
Committee chairman Tom Graves (R-Ga.) defended the measure, saying, “This is just asking the library to maintain that consistency with what is in the United States Code, and I don’t know how anyone in this room could declare that politicizing the issue.”
House Democrats disagree. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus joined forces yesterday (May 16) via a letter that asks the committee to remove the provision before it goes to the floor for a vote.
“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,” it reads. “Dated and dehumanizing terms such as ‘illegal alien’ and ‘alien’ have taken on a highly negative connotation and perpetuate the denigration of immigrant communities.”
The letter was delivered by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who introduced a bill in October 2015 that would completely remove the term “illegal alien” from federal law, replacing it with “undocumented foreign national.” The bill’s aim isn’t too much of a reach; on May 9, Congress sent a bill to President Barack Obama that will remove all references to “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” from the U.S. Code when he signs it.
*Article has been updated to reflect that the congressman from Texas is Rep. Joaquin Castro, not Julian Castro.