News & Politics

Words Matter: House Orders Library of Congress to Keep 'Illegal Alien' Designation

In a victory against political correctness, the House voted to order the Library of Congress to continue referring to “illegal aliens” rather than change the designation to “noncitizen.”

The party line vote had Democrats fuming, claiming the term was “pejorative” and that liberal doublespeak can never be repealed once it’s in use.

Well…that’s not exactly what one Democrat said. Texas Democrat  Rep. Joaquin Castro told the House, “The words ‘illegal alien’ will be retired. This will change, whether it’s now or six months from now or 10 years from now.”

San Antonio Current:

For the first time in history, conservatives hijacked a legislative appropriations bill to stop the Library of Congress from abandoning the term “illegal alien” from how it catalogs the 162 million-item collection it manages.

Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro attempted to make an amendment to the legislation allowing the Library of Congress to make the change, but it failed to gain traction in the Republican-dominated House.

“Each year, the Library of Congress makes thousands of changes to its subject headings; in 2015 alone, it added 4,934 new subject headings. Never before has Congress weighed in on the Library of Congress’ subject headings in any way, let alone legislated on the issue,” Castro said in a statement.

Thursday, Castro forced legislation he proposed earlier this year called the Correcting Hurtful and Alienating Names in Government Expression (CHANGE) Act, which would have removed every instance of the terms “alien” and “illegal alien” from federal law, replacing them with “foreign national” and “undocumented foreign national,” to a vote. Republicans, however, overwhelmingly defeated the measure.

Politicians who support the use of “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants are often the same people who advocate for more deportation and border walls.

That last may be true, although I don’t support a wall. And short of simply allowing anyone who sneaks into the country illegally to live and work as if they didn’t break the law in getting here, what else do we do with the illegal aliens besides deporting them?

The issue is not about deportation or the wall. The issue is that words matter. Meaning matters. Context matters. “Illegal alien” perfectly describes who border jumpers are. It is codified in the law. Illegals are not “undocumented.” They are “illegal.” And they aren’t “immigrants” or “workers.” They are aliens. What else do we call them that wouldn’t obscure who they are and what they’ve done?

Liberal doublespeak is pernicious. It is not meant to enhance communication or understanding, but to obfuscate issues, defining the parameters of debate in their favor. At all costs, the idea that there is anything “illegal” about breaking the law to get here must be avoided. Instead, the alien just sort of, kind of, mostly forgot to get the right papers. Hence, he/she is “undocumented.”

I have yet to hear an illegal alien say his feelings are hurt by being referred to as what he is. And if any have said it, I don’t believe them for a minute. This is a manufactured issue about the use of the term illegal alien. It’s not based in fact and is a convenient whipping boy for those who look to avoid their responsibility.

When we hear a sob story about parents being deported while their anchor children can stay, do we ever give any thought to who is responsible for this tragedy? All the government is doing is enforcing the law as they are constitutionally bound to do. The real culprits in this are those who crossed the border illegally in the first place. They, and they alone, are responsible.

But it’s so much easier to cry for them if we forget they arrived illegally and are simply “undocumented.”

At least in this one instance, Congress summoned the courage to keep political correctness from winning out.