California Assembly bill aims to remove derogatory term ‘alien’ from state law
State Assemblymember Luz Rivas. | Luz Rivas Website

SACRAMENTO – Assemblywoman Luz Rivas’s (D-Arleta) Assembly Bill 1096 was approved by the California Assembly Thurs., May 20, with bipartisan support and will now move on to the State Senate. It is expected that that bill will also pass in the Senate. AB 1096 eliminates the offensive term “alien” from all state codes. The legislation would replace the word “alien” with other language that is more reflective of today’s legal terminology, such a “noncitizen” or “immigrant.” The term “alien” has been used by the federal government since 1798 and in California since 1937.

“From the racially motivated shooting in El Paso to the recent rise in hate crimes against our API communities, we’ve seen a deliberate escalation of xenophobia in our society lead to violent attacks,” said Rivas. “The term ‘alien’ has become weaponized and is now used in place of explicitly racial slurs to dehumanize our immigrant communities. The words we say and the language we adopt in our laws matter—this racist term ‘alien’ must be removed from California statute immediately. No person should ever be referred to as an ‘alien’ because they were born outside of the United States.”

“The word ‘alien’ has no right to be in California statute—no human being is an ‘alien,’” said long-time civil rights activist Dolores Huerta. “It is insulting and dehumanizing to have that terminology in our codes. Words are powerful instruments and history has shown us how they can be used to justify institutional racism and even violence. I applaud Assemblywoman Rivas for her leadership on AB 1096 and I look forward to removing that inappropriate language from our laws.”

California’s legislature first introduced “alien” into statute in 1937 to refer to fully naturalized U.S. citizens and immigrants living within U.S. borders. In the 1990s, people began to use the word “alien” as a dog whistle to express bigotry and hatred without using explicitly racist language.

“As an official Latino Caucus priority, I am proud to see AB 1096 pass the Assembly floor and get one step closer to becoming law,” said Latino Caucus Vice-Chair and co-author, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister). “The term ‘illegal alien’ has historically been used to discriminate and dehumanize our undocumented neighbors. This language has no place in California statute and it is time to remove it from state law.”

“We know the term ‘alien’ has a dark history going back to the California Alien Land Law of 1913, which specifically prevented Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants from owning property,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley). “Removing the term from California code will be a major step in the right direction. No human being is an alien, and offensive terms like this are often used as a weapon against immigrants of color. This country has reaped countless benefits from immigration, and AB 1096 will help us move forward in treating all California residents with dignity.”

“When we speak about undocumented Californians, we’re talking about our friends and neighbors—people who are vital members of our families and our communities. It’s essential that state law reflect this reality and that we treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. “I applaud Assemblymember Luz Rivas for leading the effort to remove this offensive term from state law and am proud to be a co-author of this important measure.”

AB 1096 is supported by the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, the California Teachers Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter.

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas represents the 39th Assembly District, which includes communities within the City of Los Angeles—Arleta, Lake View Terrace, Granada Hills, Mission Hills, North Hollywood, Pacoima, Sun Valley, Sunland-Tujunga and Sylmar—and the City of San Fernando.


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