The Library of Congress will stop using the term "illegal alien" and will instead use "noncitizen," the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. The decision came after a petition from a group of college students demanded the Library of Congress change the term, saying it was offensive.
“The phrase illegal aliens has taken on a pejorative tone in recent years; and in response, some institutions have determined that they will cease to use it,” the executive summary of the Library of Congress' report said, noting, “For example, in April 2014, the Associated Press announced that illegal would not be used as a descriptor for any individual.”
Estimates place the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at 11.3 million, and around half are from Mexico. The Library of Congress chose not to use the word "illegal immigrant," however, because not all people living illegally in the U.S. are looking to officially emigrate. Some are migrant workers who go back and forth between the U.S. and their home country. The Library of Congress also rejected “undocumented” as an alternative, as they said it was both imprecise and factually incorrect in many cases where people have documents of some kind.
The decision saw backlash from some organizations, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates stricter enforcement of immigration laws. “‘Illegal alien' is a proper legal term,” Ira Mehlman, the group’s media director said, the Los Angeles Times reported, saying that the Library “is an important institution, and they ought to have some kind of allegiance to accuracy in language and precision.”
Immigration has been a top issue of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as Republican front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico, eliciting applause from his supporters and strong criticism from both Republicans and Democrats alike.