The Library of Congress has begun the process of striking the dehumanizing terms “aliens” and “illegal aliens” as cataloging subject headings, to be replaced with “noncitizens.” It’s been a change years in the making: The Library of Congress agreed to the changes in 2016, but that was blocked by Congressional Republicans, Literary Hub said. “Before this, Congress members had never had a hand in routine cataloging tasks.”
Some of them are still sticking their noses in it, namely Ted Cruz. Because of course. He slams the changes as “politically motivated” and “Orwellian” (the dramatics!) in a letter co-signed by Indiana’s Mike Braun. It’s a bit of a lonely letter: Their names are the only two featured.
“Now, after the Biden administration has made the political decision to order U.S. immigration agencies to stop using the term ‘illegal alien,’ the LOC has followed suit and released a report stating that ‘the time has come’ to make the changes that we strenuously objected to five years ago,” Cruz and Braun claimed in their letter. “This decision is nothing but a politically-motivated and Orwellian attempt to manipulate and control language.”
Note: When the Justice Department under former attorney general and racist Keebler elf Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III ordered U.S. attorneys to not use the term “undocumented,” there were no cries about “Orwellian” tactics from Cruz or Braun. Relatedly, Sessions as a senator joined Cruz in opposing the changes initially attempted by the Library of Congress in 2016.
“Now, the headings will finally be changed, ‘as expeditiously as possible,’” Literary Hub continued. Harvard Library ended its use of the offensive term earlier this year. “Harvard Library, like all academic libraries in the U.S., typically takes its cataloging language cues from the Library of Congress,” the Harvard Gazette said. But in this instance, it beat the Library of Congress in implementing this change.
“We are pleased that the Library of Congress is replacing these subject headings, which are both outdated and dehumanizing,” American Library Association President Patricia “Patty” M. Wong said in welcoming the change. “This update better reflects common terminology and respects library users and library workers from all backgrounds. It also reflects the core value of social justice for ALA members, who have been at the vanguard of this change for years.”
While this outdated terminology is commonly found in U.S. law, “those who have pushed to remove the ‘alien’ language say there is precedent for changing terms over time,” NBC News reported. They point to legislation introduced by Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro that would strike the term from law. ”The word ‘alien,’ Castro has pointed out, is also now used to refer to creatures from outer space,” the report said. “’Words matter, particularly in the context of an issue as contentious as immigration,’ he has said.” Yes, words matter. We have seen how the previous president’s words led to a white supremacist insurrection on Jan. 6. The same words used by that the president were also used by the white supremacist terrorist who went to El Paso to shoot Mexicans.
The Biden administration has made some efforts in addressing dehumanizing language, including a memo ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to use the term “undocumented noncitizen” instead of “illegal alien.” NPR reported the “guidance mirrors an earlier change in language at U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency in charge of legal immigration.” The CBP change pissed off in particular Border Patrol’s then-chief, Rodney Scott, who said that he wouldn’t “undermine” it even though he opposed it. Scott didn’t have to worry too much about it—he was dismissed this past summer.