CAPAC Rebukes Republican Language to Describe Immigrants

Jun 10, 2016 Issues: Civil Rights, Immigration

Washington, DC – Today, Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements on the passage of the FY2017 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act (H.R. 5325), which includes a provision that will require the Library of Congress to continue using the terms “illegal alien” and “alien” in its subject headings.  In March, the Library decided to replace these terms with the words “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration” after a lengthy review.  Last month, CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu joined leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – comprised of CAPAC, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – in sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging the removal of the provision.

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:

“By inserting anti-immigrant language into this simple funding bill, House Republicans are once again openly displaying their xenophobia by forcing the Library of Congress to continue using the terms ‘illegal alien’ and ‘alien’ against its own will. Words matter, which is why the Library of Congress decided to stop using these dated and pejorative words. Unfortunately, terms like these are all too familiar to many within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community due to various ‘alien’ laws that targeted AAPIs by denying citizenship, restricting land ownership, and prohibiting inter-racial marriage. And during World War II, the U.S. government rounded up ‘aliens’ of Japanese ancestry for interment. We cannot allow our country to move backwards by perpetuating the use of these dehumanizing words. The AAPI community and all Americans deserve better.”

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice Chair:

“The continued use of ‘alien’ and ‘illegal alien’ to refer to undocumented migrants dehumanizes the many hardworking individuals who contribute to our economies and have come in search of a better life for their families. While we can debate the actions we should take to address their immigration status, we should not be using pejorative language that separates these individuals from the dignity they deserve as human beings. I am disappointed the Rules Committee did not allow amendments submitted by Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and Congressman Castro to be offered on the House floor. These amendments would strike report language in the Legislative Branch appropriations bill to prevent the Congressional Research Service from using other terms when referring to undocumented migrants. Given the many contributions of immigrants to this nation, the full House should at least be able to debate matters such as this, but Republicans on the Rules Committee refused to let us even discuss this matter.”

Congressman Michael Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:

“On February 19th, 1942, the U.S. government announced that all ‘aliens and non-aliens of Japanese ancestry’ would be relocated to internment camps. Our government didn’t even have the decency to call us ‘citizens’ or ‘noncitizens’ as we were rounded up and imprisoned for years. The continued use of words like ‘illegal’ and ‘alien’ divides and dehumanizes entire communities and is used to discriminate against immigrants and people of color. No human being is ‘illegal’ and no one should be made to feel ‘alien.’ As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, I voted to strike this language in Committee which has no place in our national discourse and I will continue to oppose it.”

Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip:

“The most American ideal is that every person – no matter where they come from, what they believe, or who they love – deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It is disappointing that not every Member of Congress is committed to upholding that principle. Requiring the Library of Congress to use terms that are offensive and dehumanizing is beneath us. It undermines our effort to build a more compassionate and inclusive society.”

Congressman Ami Bera (CA-07):

“Requiring the Library of Congress to use language like ‘alien’ or ‘illegal alien’ is a step backwards for us as a nation. Instead of trying to keep dated rhetoric in place, I urge my colleagues to work on a real solution to our broken immigration system. As the son of immigrants who came to this country to make a better life for their family, I know that our country’s success would not be possible without the contributions of immigrants who’ve come here. That’s why I’ve been fighting for comprehensive immigration reform since I got to Congress.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13):

“Simply put, the term ‘Illegal Alien’ is disparaging and racist. The Library of Congress should be allowed to end the use of this slur without interference from Congress.”

Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33):

“Today, I join my colleagues in calling for the removal of offensive legislative language that would require the Library of Congress to continue to use derogatory terms such as ‘aliens’ and ‘illegals’ instead of ‘noncitizens’ and ‘unauthorized’ to describe immigrants. As one of six immigrants currently serving in Congress, I am personally offended by this. We are a nation of immigrants and using these types of disparaging words to describe immigrants is not only wrong, it is dehumanizing. I urge my House colleagues to do the right thing and remove this hurtful language from the Fiscal Year 2017 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06):

“Shame on those who seek to block the Library of Congress from replacing these antiquated and pejorative terms. The Library of Congress decided to make these changes after a comprehensive review, and we should not be politicizing the process. We are a nation of immigrants and most who come to the U.S. only seek better lives, and to have their shot at the American dream. Let’s work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is what our country really needs, rather than waste time on efforts to stop the Library of Congress from updating its subject headings.”

Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03):

“I am disappointed that there are those in Congress who wish to require the Library of Congress to use offensive, pejorative terms. These terms perpetuate the defamation of immigrant communities. While the term originated in the Naturalization Act of 1970, it has since taken on a negative association.  We must continue to modernize outdated terminology in federal law and promote diversity in our nation.”

Congressman Mark Takai (HI-01):

“The House has a standing rule that no legislating is meant to be done through the appropriations process.  Yet, Republicans are using this bill to force Library of Congress to revert back to the term ‘illegal alien’ for their subject headings.  I urge the House focus on funding critical programs in the Legislative Branch, rather than bringing back the use of derogatory terms.”   

Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-03):

“The term ‘illegal alien’ is a slur, plain and simple. It has no business in the lexicon of the Library of Congress, or any other institution of the United States federal government. The fact that the Republican Party is trying to force such demeaning and hateful language into official use speaks volumes about their intentions, and about how far removed they are from the immigrant communities that make up the tapestry of our society.”

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19):

“If denigrating Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and federal judges weren’t enough, Republicans are now taking their anti-immigrant feud to our librarians by insisting on terminology that is outdated and insulting to immigrants. Much in the same way the Library of Congress has substituted ‘African Americans’ for ‘Negroes,’ and ‘people with disabilities’ for ‘cripples,’ the Library regularly reviews and update subject headings. But this election season it seems that there is no limit to the racial invectives Republicans will hurl in their narrow-minded pursuit to dehumanize and vilify immigrants who have worked so hard to contribute to communities all across America.”

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (CA-32):

“Terms that are offensive should rightly be removed from law, and replaced with language that reflects our true American values of inclusion and integrity. I join my CAPAC colleagues in strongly denouncing today’s attack by House Republicans, which is an affront to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and all Americans, who deserve better from their elected officials.”

Congressman Charles B. Rangel (NY-13):

“We must not allow the use of such bigoted terms against immigrants, whether documented or not. Like those before them, they came to America to seek a better life in pursuit of peace and prosperity. Immigrants continue to make America beautiful and stronger. They should not be dehumanized.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40):

“I am deeply disappointed that the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill would require the Library of Congress to use the terms ‘alien’ and ‘illegal alien’ in its subject headings.  These terms are offensive, outdated, and confusing.  They deny a basic measure of human dignity to millions of men, women, and children.  As members of Congress and leaders of our communities, it is our responsibility to promote respectful discourse on important issues, including immigration.  Removing ‘alien’ and ‘illegal alien’ from Library of Congress usage would be a step towards making our immigration debate more respectful and humane.”

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46):

“The term ‘illegal alien’ is a form of dehumanizing rhetoric and has been used to justify continued discrimination against vulnerable migrant and minority communities. This politically motivated Congressional interference in the process to reform the Library of Congress Subject Headings is unprecedented and insulting.”

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09):

“Our government should actively lead by example and stand up against bigotry. Recent efforts in the Legislative Branch Appropriations process would result in the erroneous and offensive inclusion of a provision that would keep derogatory terms, such as ‘alien’ or ‘illegal alien’ in circulation. Our policies and laws should include language that better reflects the diversity of our country’s history, people, and cultures.”

Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51):

“With the exception of our Native American brothers and sisters, the Unites States is a nation full of immigrants. The use of dehumanizing terms, like "alien", belittles those courageous individuals currently seeking a better life and ignores that we were once in the same position. The panel convened by Library of Congress acted appropriately in the past by removing offensive words from their usage and they were right to recently remove the term ‘alien’. I am appalled that my Republican colleagues would force the Library of Congress to use offensive terms against its wishes."

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-07):

“Language and the words we choose have power in shaping our dialogue and reflecting our nation’s values. For the Library of Congress to continue using the outdated and dehumanizing term ‘illegal aliens’ would serve only to justify division and hatred against some of our immigrant neighbors. People cannot be ‘illegal’, which is what this hateful term suggests.”

###

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.