Amid Protests, Library Of Congress Removes ‘Illegal Alien’

Two years ago, Daniela Pelaez, an undocumented immigrant and student at Dartmouth College, joined a student organization on campus that directly deals with issues of immigration. In 2014, Pelaez and her organization petitioned the Dartmouth library to remove “illegal alien” from their subject headings. The library agreed, but the problem is that the library followed the Library of Congress’ system of subject headings.

So, Pelaez and her organization, Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality, and DREAMers, or simply CoFIRED, along with the librarians at Dartmouth’s library, sent a request to the Library of Congress to change this subject heading. Their first request was denied.

The students, however, did not give up. As a result of their perseverance, the Library of Congress recently announced that they will change their subject headings because:

the meaning of ‘aliens’ is often misunderstood and should be replaced with ‘noncitizens,’ and that the phrase ‘illegal aliens’ has become pejorative.”

The subject heading will now be “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration” instead of “illegal alien.”

This is but a small triumph for those seeking immigration reform; particularly for undocumented students like Pelaez. However, those on the right are crying that this is an extreme use of political correctness. They claim that:

[N]either “illegal” nor “alien” are racist; and that no one is, as the [Library of Congress] asserted, confused by the fact that “alien” means both a non-national and an extra-terrestrial.”

These arguments are ridiculous. The change from “illegal” to “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration” is not absurd, rather it is a change in the way we see our fellow human beings. The stigma that comes with “illegal” leads to those, such as Donald Trump, likening all immigrants to criminals, whereas many undocumented immigrants are coming to the United States with hopes of capturing the American dream.

I am on the band wagon of those who believe that political correctness on college campuses has gone a bit too far, but this correctness in how we refer to undocumented or “noncitizens” is a good change. This is not extreme political correctness, rather it is necessary and long overdue.

Featured image by miguelb under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.