New York City became the first major city in the U.S. on Thursday to remove the terms “alien,” “illegal immigrant” and “illegal migrant” from local laws, rules and documents and instead the NYC Council will be replacing them with the term “noncitizen."
Queens Councilman Francisco Moya, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, called the terms “outdated and loaded words used to dehumanize the people they describe.”
“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,” Moya said.
The commissioner of NYC Immigrant Affairs, Bitta Mostofi, applauded the work of the council, saying, "At a time when the federal government is engaged in divisive policies and racist rhetoric, we are proud to have worked within the administration with the council to show that there is a better way, one that recognizes the humanity of New Yorkers."
Four council members -- including Joe Borelli, R-South Shore, and Minority Leader Steven Matteo, R-Mid Island -- were the only two to vote against the legislation.
"Not all noncitizens are the same. Some are tourists, students, or temporary or permanent legal residents, while others have entered and/or remain in this country unlawfully. This legislation is an ill-conceived attempt to erase these important distinctions from all city government publications,” Matteo said, according to reports by SiLive.com.
In October, New York City's Commission on Human Rights issued guidance making it illegal to use the terms "illegals" or "illegal alien" with the "intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person." Doing so is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000.