California Strips the Word “Alien” Out of Its Laws
FAIR Take | October 2021
The California legislature recently passed a bill removing the term “alien” from everywhere it appears in state laws and replacing it with vague and legally imprecise words. Unsurprisingly, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed the bill into law on September 24.
Federal law defines an “alien” as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.” This term has been used in federal law since the 1790’s and since the 15th century has been “the primary English term for those who are not a citizen of the country where they were residing.” Despite this, the Biden Administration has ordered federal immigration agencies not to use the actual language of the law and states such as California are following suit.
There are more than 80 sections in fifteen different California codes that use the word “alien.” Assembly Bill (AB) 1096, sponsored by Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), deletes the word wherever it appears in the codes and replaces it with various terms such as “noncitizen,” “immigrant” or “persons unlawfully in the United States.”
AB 1096 was introduced on February 18 and advanced steadily through the legislative process. After no movement for two months, it picked up steam in September. The Senate passed AB 1096 on September 8, by a 30-8 vote along party lines. The Assembly followed suit passing it on September 9 by a vote of 73-0 with 12 Republicans joining all sixty Democrats and the Independent in support.
While similar bills have been introduced in other states, only Colorado (in April of this year) had previously enacted similar legislation. However, legislation prohibiting the term have succeeded on the local level. In 2019, New York City authorized fines of up to $250,000 for using the term “illegal alien.”
In a statement issued when he signed the bill, Gov. Newsom characterized the word “alien” as “offensive,” and Assemblywoman Rivas called it “racist.” However, FAIR has explained repeatedly at length why “alien” and “illegal alien” are the most legally accurate, precise and correct terms. FAIR further noted that “these terms have an established history in Anglo-American legal parlance and were never intended to be derogatory terms. Open-borders proponents are attempting to manufacture outrage over what we call illegal aliens so they can push a false narrative that minimizes the threats to national security and public safety that accompany massive illegal migration.”
Under the California state constitution, AB 1096 will take effect on January 1, 2022.