"illegal aliens" won't be used anymore at Libary of Congress.

Man Standing at a wall



By the Los Angeles Times, adapted by Newsela staff on April 13, 2016.

Library filled with books.

The Library of Congress announced it will no longer use “illegal aliens” to label books and other media about immigrants. The library said the term "illegal aliens" has become insulting and offensive.

The library will now use “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration” to refer to people residing in the country illegally. The library said those terms are more correct as well as less insulting.



Educating the Educated

A group of students from Dartmouth College were the first to ask the Library of Congress to scrap the term. The group is called CoFIRED.

Melissa Padilla is now a student in her last year at Dartmouth College, which is in New Hampshire. During her first year of college, Padilla said, she decided to learn what being an undocumented immigrant meant.

Dartmouth Student Sought The Change

Padilla often read the words “illegal alien" in her research. She talked to her fellow members in CoFIRED, and they contacted the Library of Congress in 2014. “I think a university should be free of the racist phrases I heard growing up,” she said.

In 1980, the Library of Congress created the catalog subject heading “aliens, illegal.” A subject heading is similar to a hashtag. Librarians tag books, articles and other media about immigrants under that subject heading. In 1993, the Library of Congress changed the heading again to “illegal aliens.” 

The presidential candidates have used the terms "illegal aliens" and "aliens" often, but that does not mean everybody likes them. The Library of Congress observed in its report that many groups don't use those terms anymore.

Donkey Vs. Elephant

News Groups Have Stopped Use Of Term

"Illegal aliens" has become more of an insult, the report said. In 2014, The Associated Press news service announced that it would not use "illegal" to describe any individual.

Other news groups have made the change as well, including the Los Angeles Times. That newspaper no longer uses “illegal” to describe people. It still uses the term “illegal immigration.”

Dennis Hernandez is a member of CoFIRED. He called the library’s action an example for others to follow.

People in the government and the news should follow the Library of Congress' lead, Hernandez said. “Now is the time for all to recognize that referring to undocumented immigrants as ‘illegals’ is offensive.” The word is dehumanizing and there is no excuse to keep using it, said Hernandez.

The Rebuttle!

Ira Mehlman works for a group that wants stricter enforcement of immigration laws. He says the Library of Congress did not have to stop using those terms. 

“‘Illegal alien’ is a proper legal term,” Mehlman said.

Mehlman also said that the Library of Congress has a big influence on libraries around the world. Libraries in the United States and beyond use the subject headings of the Library of Congress. The library should think more carefully before changing the subject headings, Mehlman said.

Lawmaker Seeking To Drop Phrase From Federal Documents

Entering the country without permission is illegal, Mehlman said. He also said that the term “alien” is used in laws about immigration.

Last October, a Texas lawmaker named Joaquin Castro launched an effort to change that. Castro is a Democrat from San Antonio, and he introduced a bill that would remove “alien” and “illegal alien” from federal laws. The bill has not been put up yet to a vote to become a law. Republicans have the majority in the House, and some may resist the change.