Students, Sandoval want ugly “alien” label out of state law books

Students, Sandoval want ugly “alien” label out of state law booksCHICAGO – Calling the term “illegal alien” a bigoted label from a bygone era, local high school students and state Senator Martin Sandoval are pushing legislation to replace “alien” with “undocumented immigrant” in Illinois law books.

“The word ‘alien’ is really offensive. It's not just rude but it dehumanizes undocumented people, and that's not right," said Uriel Hernandez a ninth grader at Solorio Academy High School.

"All workers, documented or undocumented, pay taxes and do their fair share, so there is no such thing as an "Illegal" person," added fellow ninth grader Delila Lopez.

Students at Solorio Academy took up the issue and brought it to Sandoval’s attention. The academy is in Gage Park, which is home to one of the highest undocumented immigrant populations in Illinois.

In turn, Sandoval sponsored Senate Bill 3021, which would officially make the change in all state laws. The Senate could take up his proposal as early as this week.

“These are words bigots use to label people. We need to move past these bygone eras of racism and bigotry and recognize the reality around us. Let’s stop labeling and start welcoming our neighbors and co-workers,” said Sandoval.

Sandoval and the students’ efforts come as Latino issues and communities are at a crossroads. Increasingly hateful speech in political circles has targeted immigrant communities and sought to blame them for economic woes even as studies show they are a vital contributor to our nation’s economy.

Meanwhile, the perception that undocumented immigrants “strengthen the country” has steadily been on the rise among all adults since 2010, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. More than 70 percent of those surveyed said they think undocumented immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S., as long as they meet certain requirements.

Outside Illinois law books, the term has been on its way out for quite some time. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey showed that media organizations have largely stopped using the phrase.

Illinois isn’t the only state taking up this issue. California recently voted to remove “alien” from its law books. And Illinois lawmakers have, in recent years, taken action to update the state’s laws to better reflect terminology and remove offensive labels.

For instance, in 2011, lawmakers voted to remove the term “mental retardation” in law books and replace it with “intellectual disability.” That same year, the term “crippled” was eliminated in favor of “physically disabled.”

Sen. Martin A. Sandoval

11th District

Years served: 2003 - 2019

Committee assignments: Energy and Public Utilities; Higher Education; Licensed Activities; Transportation (Chairperson); Subcommittee on Capital (Sub-Chairperson).

Biography: Full-time state legislator, born in The Back of the Yards, graduate of Loyola University in Chicago where he earned a Bachelor's of Science in psychology; married (wife, Marina) has three children.

Associated Representatives:
Michael J. Madigan
Celina Villanueva