Brown signs bill banning ‘alien' from state labor code

Published on August 11th, 2015

Alejandra Molina
August 11, 2015
The Press Enterprise

Governor’s decision pleases Inland residents from immigrant families, but is criticized by those who oppose illegal immigration.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday, Aug. 10, to delete the term “alien” from the California Labor Code when defining immigrants.

The governor’s move was welcomed by some Inland residents who come from immigrant families, but was criticized by those against illegal immigration.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said the measure was a way to modernize the code and steer people away from what many consider negative rhetoric.

“Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations,” Mendoza said in a statement.

Through his bill, the term “alien” will be removed from the state labor code when describing a person who is not born in the United States or who is not a fully naturalized citizen of the United States. The federal government uses alien to define any person who is not a citizen or national of the United States.

Mendoza said the bill will not only delete the term “alien,” but also remove language that creates a hierarchy of how people get hired under public works contracts. That language places U.S. born citizens first and undocumented immigrants, who are referred to as “aliens,” last.

To Mendoza, this is a way for California to lead the way in eventually having other states, and even the federal government, do the same.

Not everyone agrees.

Joe Guzzardi with Californians for Population Stabilization, a non-profit organization based in Santa Barbara, said the term shouldn’t be interpreted as offensive.

“I don’t really understand what the goal is, and why there’s so much sensitivity,” Guzzardi said.

The state’s intentions with this bill are unclear, he added.

“I don’t think it’s very likely to assume that just because California does something, the federal government is going to rewrite its references to the laws as they apply to illegal immigrants,” Guzzardi said.

But to Mendoza, California should do things differently.

“We in California often seem to disagree with what the federal law is doing,” Mendoza said when talking about supporting immigration reform. “Just because they have that word alien in the vocabulary, doesn’t make it right.”

In the Inland Empire, residents who are against illegal immigration, use the term freely.

Murrieta resident William Satmary said the term fits anybody who is in the country illegally, whether that person is from Britain or south of the border.

“I apologize to our immigrant friends if it sounds offensive, but that’s what the federal law calls them,” Satmary said. “The term ‘illegal alien’ was not made up by some Tea Partiers as a slanderous term. It’s what federal law states.”

For others, it’s more personal.

Wildomar resident Jaime Fernandez said hearing the words “illegal alien” always bothered him growing up because he knew his parents were undocumented.

“I find it offensive. I think its dehumanizing,” Fernandez said. “When I think of the word alien, I think of extraterrestrials, something not from this world. That's exactly why we should not call any human being regardless of their legal status.”


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