‘Words matter’: New York City set to remove offensive immigrant terms from codes of law

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New York City Hall
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New York is set to become the first major American city to remove legal language that many believe refers to undocumented residents in a negative light.

The City Council is expected to pass Thursday legislation that would expunge the terms “alien,” “illegal immigrant” and “illegal migrant” from local laws, rules, orders, city documents and other materials. The terms will be replaced by the word “noncitizen.”

Queens City Councilman Francisco Moya, who sponsored the legislation, said the change is not a matter of political correctness, but rather that the terms are outdated — and are often used to degrade an undocumented person.

“These words are outdated and loaded words used to dehumanize the people they describe. It’s time to retire them,” Moya said in a statement. “Words matter. The language we choose to use has power and consequences. It’s time we as a city use our language to acknowledge people as people, rather than to dehumanize them and divide us.”

The legislation excludes any direct references in the City Charter or Administrative Code to a federal law or program, the Council member noted.

Seven City Council members co-sponsored the legislation, including Brooklyn’s Farah Louis; Queens’ Daniel Dromm and Costa Constantinides; and Manhattan’s Ben Kallos, Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Helen Rosenthal.

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Coalition of Asian American Children and Families spoke in favor of the legislation at a January City Council hearing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law. The legislation takes effect 60 days after its enactment.

This story first appeared on amny.com

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