Assemblywoman Luz Rivas Seeks to Modernize State Law by Replacing the Offensive Term “Alien”

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1096 to eliminate the derogatory term “alien,” which is used to describe foreign-born individuals, with terms that are more reflective of today’s legal terminology. The term “alien” has been used by the federal government since 1798 and in California since 1937.

“Words have power. Words shape our laws. We teach our children at a young age that words can be used to shape the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. “The term, ‘alien’ is an archaic and dehumanizing term used for decades to isolate the undocumented community and diminish their rights. As the State with the largest undocumented population in our nation, we all know someone, have a friend, a colleague, or a neighbor, who is a noncitizen. However, that does not make them any less human or American. It’s time we that brought our laws into the 21st century and remove outdated terminology that no longer reflects the diverse population that makes up this great state.”

The term “alien” was first introduced into California’s Legislature in 1937 to refer to people who were not born in the United States (U.S.) or a fully naturalized U.S. citizen. In the 1990s, “alien” became a term for people to express bigotry without using explicit racist language.  In 2015, California eliminated and replaced the term “alien” with “noncitizen” in the California Labor Code to strengthen immigrant labor rights; however, the term still exists throughout other sections of our state law.

AB 1096 is supported by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, Vice-Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, Assemblymember Evan Low, Vice-Chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Chair of California Legislative Jewish Caucus.  

“Using the antiquated, xenophobic term ‘alien’ to refer to an immigrant has no place in California. Nearly 11 million Californians were born outside of the United States, and we are proud of that fact. It’s time we get rid of this dehumanizing, alienating language in California Code, and replace it with a term that gives the dignity to our immigrant population that they deserve,” said Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles).

“The term ‘Alien’ is dehumanizing and belongs nowhere in our country. This anachronism diminishes the positive contributions that immigrants make to our communities every day. The immigrant experience is the American experience, and the language in our laws must reflect our country's inclusive values. Undocumented immigrants deserve the human decency and dignity that everyone is entitled to,” said Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister).

“Words matter, which is why I fully support Assemblywoman Luz Rivas’s proposal to rid California code of the word ‘alien.’ The term dehumanizes men, women and children, and it has often been weaponized against immigrants of color, such as the racist laws intended to block Chinese immigration in the late 19th century. Immigration is the backbone of the American identity, and the process of naturalization should be one we embrace rather than pitting citizens against noncitizens,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell).

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