SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The man sometimes called “Governor Moonbeam” has made it so that the word “alien” in California will officially only refer to men from outer space.
Jerry Brown announced Monday that he signed a bill to remove the term from the California labor code to describe foreign-born workers.
The law (SB432), which was authored by Democratic state Sen. Tony Mendoza, will take effect next year. Mendoza said removing the term "alien" was an important step toward modernizing California law because it is now commonly considered a derogatory term.
“Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations,” Mendoza told the Los Angeles Times. “The United States is a country of immigrants who not only form an integral part of our culture and society, but are also critical contributors to our economic success.”
The state began using the term alien in 1937. SB432 amends a labor code enacted that year stating that citizens should be given priority over “aliens” when hiring for public-works contracts. That portion of the code was repealed in 1970, according to the newspapers, but the term remained elsewhere in the law.
The federal government uses alien as its official term when referring to undocumented immigrants.
Kevin R. Johnson, dean of public interest law and professor of Chicano studies at the University of California, Davis, told the Times, “The concern is that the use of the word ‘alien’ would dehumanize the people affected,” possibly leading to them not receiving “lack of protections under the law.”
On the same day, Brown approved two other immigration-related measures: One bill allows high school students who are legal permanent residents to serve as poll workers in state elections, the other makes it illegal to take a child's immigration status into account in a civil liability case. The latter bill was a response to a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed by more than 80 elementary students from Miramonte Elementary School against the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.