According to a Los Angeles Times report, the Library of Congress will no longer use “illegal aliens” as a bibliographical term, stating that the once common phrase had become offensive. The Times stated that the library will now use “noncitizens” and “unauthorized immigration” when referring to individuals and the larger phenomenon of people residing in the country illegally.
Not surprisingly, the library decided to make the change after a group of students from Dartmouth College urged it to do so. The group, known as CoFIRED (for the Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers), was assisted by the American Library Association.
I’m not sure what function “DREAMers” serves, it seems nonsensical, unwieldy and out of place in this context, though I’m sure the students think it’s perfectly appropriate. Much as they believe it’s appropriate for them to determine what terminology the U.S. Library of Congress uses. The Library of Congress is a respected institution that plays an extraordinary role worldwide. Its subject headings are used by libraries around the globe, so the DREAMers at CoFIRED have essentially unilaterally imposed their will on the rest of the planet, albeit in the most inclusive, open, tolerant, validating manner, I’m sure.
In actuality, one student was behind all this. Melissa Padilla, a student in her last year at Dartmouth, “decided to explore [her] identity as an undocumented immigrant” while a freshman at the school. While researching the topic, she realized she frequently read the words “illegal alien,” so, offended, she contacted fellow CoFIRED members, and they subsequently made their appeal to the Library of Congress in 2014. “I think a university should be free of the racist phrases I heard growing up,” Padilla said. And so they shall, Melissa.
The Library of Congress’ executive summary sited the April 2014 announcement by the Associated Press that they would no longer use ‘illegal’ as a descriptor for any individual. Well, isn’t that special? The next time a policeman or state trooper tells me that speeding is illegal, I’m going to tell him or her that that term is offensive and hurtful, and suggest he or she instead use the phrase “unauthorized rate of travel.”
Some who pushed for- or helped implement- this change claim one of their goals is to make the language more precise. This is patently absurd. Entering the country without authorization is by definition illegal. “Alien” appears in the immigration code. Truth be told, their intent is actually the opposite. We glean less from the term “noncitizen” than from “illegal alien,” precisely because it is less precise. It is broader and vaguer, so it carries less weight.
If we are too craven and p.c.-addled to say “terrorist,” “Islamic terror” or “illegal alien,” then we are as the
drunk alcoholically-challenged person who
refuses to admit he has a problem.
And our future will be no brighter.
(Yet we use the phrase “invasive species” ad nauseum. This seems harsh…and hypocritical. Another one of nature’s myriad life forms arrives on our shores to strengthen us through diversity, and we make it sound like an invasion? Does this mean war?).