The New York City Council has approved a bill to prohibit using the words “alien,” “illegal immigrant,” or “illegal migrant” in all city documents, including laws, rules, and other materials. The word “noncitizen” will be used instead.
In a 46-4 vote in favor of the bill on Thursday, the Council passed the measure sponsored by Queens Councilmember Francisco Moya.
"The word terms ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘alien’ have no place in our city’s guiding documents or social discourse today,” Moya said in a release. “These words are outdated and loaded words used to dehumanize the people they describe. It’s time to retire them.”
“Words matter,” Moya added. “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 term "alien" in the context of describing an undocumented immigrant or non-citizen appears six times in the city's official constitution, the New York City Charter.
In a tweet, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who has pushed for a more progressive Council during his tenure, said the word "alien" is a “dehumanizing and offensive term.”
Four councilmembers - Robert Holden of Queens, Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn, and Staten Island lawmakers Joseph Borelli and Steven Matteo - voted against the measure.
Holden told the New York Post the Council was “overstepping our bounds here prohibiting certain terms.”
“It’s like the speech police is out again,” he said. “'Alien' is a term used for someone who is from another area, another land. That’s a term used in Congress and in the government.”
Last year, the city's Commission on Human Rights issued a guidance declaring that using the terms “illegal alien" or "illegals" with "intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person" is against the law.
The measure, should Mayor Bill de Blasio sign it, would make New York City the first in the country to abolish such language.