In a push for progressive immigration laws, California Governor Jerry Brown is removing the word “alien” from the state’s labor code. Brown contends the term has come to be used negatively as a pejorative.
“Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations,” said Senator Tony Mendoza, author of the bill banning use of the term. “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 move is just one in a host of progressive immigration reforms the state is making under Governor Brown, who has also signed into law legislation that protects the rights of immigrant minors in civil lawsuits. The move has been applauded by the more liberal-leaning portions of the state, but has, predictably, come under fire from some conservatives.
The banning of the word “alien” comes amidst widespread abandonment of the term “illegal alien” in the media. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that use “illegal alien” among media outlets declined to just 5%, down from 21% usage six years ago.
“The concern is that the use of the word ‘alien’ would dehumanize the people affected” and lead to “lack of protections under the law,” Johnson said.
Noncitizens, who have historically had a difficult time utilizing the country’s legal system, may be afforded easier access to a personal injury attorney, family lawyer, or other legal representative in civil court cases.
In addition, Brown signed into law a bill allowing high-school aged immigrants to serve as poll workers. “Not only are we expanding our access to bilingual poll workers,” said Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, “we are providing high-school-aged lawful permanent residents firsthand experience with American democracy, hopefully inspiring them to become naturalized voting citizens in the future.”
After years of being a moderate state under the Governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, California is surging ahead as one of the country’s most progressive regions, especially on the issue of immigration. But immigration reform isn’t the embattled governor’s only concern. Environmental concerns in the state have risen over the last few years, and they reached an all-time high when California entered a state of severe drought.
Governor Brown is currently waging a political battle against the oil companies using California as a resource, saying they sell a “highly destructive” product and contribute to the kind of ecological decline that has put the state in the environmental spotlight. “The oil industry is in deep trouble,” Brown told reporters. “[Oil companies] have a product that is highly destructive, while highly valuable at the same time. And we’re trying to work out the right policies.” Brown proposed cutting the state’s gasoline consumption in half by 2030, but the plan isn’t without its critics.
Representatives of the oil industry say Brown’s plan would lead to gasoline rationing, and could lead the state further into debt. Supporters of the plan accuse the oil industry of “making things up”.
Whatever the truth of the matter is, Governor Brown says he won’t be intimidated. “I have no intention of backing down,” he said. “We’re going to intensify our efforts to do lower-carbon fuels and lower-carbon pollution, now and into the future.”
Governor Brown remains popular with California’s liberal population, and his progressive stances on immigration and the environment reflect a shift in the state’s politics—one that many predicted after the popular but right-leaning Governor Schwarzenegger left office and returned to the world of action movies and wonderfully over-the-top cinema.