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Colorado proposes replacing the term 'illegal alien' with 'undocumented immigrant'

New York City legislators barred the use of the term “illegal alien” in 2019. Now, two Colorado legislators are trying to do the same.

DENVER — Two Colorado legislators are seeking to pass a bill in Colorado legislature that hopes to limit the so-called degradation of persons here illegally.

Democratic State Rep. Susan Lontine and Democratic State Sen. Julie Gonzales are the primary, and only, sponsors of House Bill 20-1294. If passed, the bill would replace the term “illegal alien” with “undocumented immigrant” in all public service contracts.

The legislation was introduced Feb. 12 and was assigned to the Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs. The bill, seeking advancement to the Committee of the Whole, will be voted upon in committee 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

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In an interview with the New York Times, Lontine said HB20-1294 was inspired by a friend offended by the use of the term at a job training.

“She goes: ‘Why are you using that? That’s an awful term',” she said.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security defines “alien” as “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”

The introduction of HB20-1294 comes after New York City in September 2019 made it illegal to threaten someone with a call to immigration authorities; to refer to them as an “illegal alien” with what the city says is the “intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person"; or to harass someone for their English-speaking capabilities.

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If the law is broken, perpetrators can face fines of up to $250,000, as outlined by New York City’s Commission on Human Rights.

California also did away with the term “alien” in its state labor code in 2015.

The banning of the term in New York City came after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for “illegal aliens” to be the official term referencing those here illegally, rather than “undocumented immigrants.” The instruction was directed at U.S. attorneys in 2018.

The Justice Department elaborated in an email, writing that "the word 'undocumented' is not based in U.S. code, and should not be used to describe someone's illegal presence in the country."

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Opposition to the abolishment of the term argues that “undocumented immigrant” is made up, meant to “obscure the fact that such aliens have violated U.S. immigration law,” as written by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky.

Spakovsky added the term is inaccurate and overly politically correct.

Lontine emphasized the importance and weight of language, indicating that the use of the word “alien” is degrading in a tweet she posted Tuesday.

If signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, the ban of the term will be implemented at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 5, 2020, assuming the General Assembly adjourns on time.


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