If the bill passes, the word “alien” in city codes would be replaced with “noncitizen.” However, only when referencing a federal agency or program would the terms “illegal alien,” illegal immigrant,” or “alien” be allowed.
Councilman Francisco Moya proposed the bill, calling the terms antiquated and divisive.
“But we also know that words that are used, are also used to dehumanize people,” he said in an interview with NTD News. “You don’t refer to your neighbor as an alien; you refer to them as a person.”
Legally, “illegal alien” is used by federal bodies, such as the Supreme Court and Homeland Security, to define a foreign-born person who’s illegally present in the United States.
When Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered an injunction (pdf) on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), he said he understood that “there is a certain segment of the population that finds the phrase ‘illegal alien’ offensive.”
“The court uses this term because it is the term used by the Supreme Court in its latest pronouncement pertaining to this area of the law,” he added.
Conservative think tanks, such as The Heritage Foundation, have said alterations like these could blur the line between legal and illegal immigration. However, the law would only affect the City of New York, and wouldn’t change anyone’s immigration status.
Under its current language, the bill doesn’t prohibit lawmakers from making distinctions between those lawfully or unlawfully present in the the United States.
Last year, New York City made it illegal to call someone an “illegal alien” with the intent to “demean, humiliate, or harass a person.” Doing so could result with a fine up to $250,000.