Pew Research Center

A proposed law, co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, would ban the use of the word “alien” from federal law, when referring to immigrants.

Introduced by Texas Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro, the measure follows a similar move by the state of California, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

According to a release issued by Castro, the Correcting Hurtful and Alienating Names in Government Expression (CHANGE) Act changes the term “alien” in federal law to the term “foreign national.”

“America is a nation of immigrants, yet our federal government continues to use terms that dehumanize and ostracize those in our society who happen to have been born elsewhere,” Castro said. “Regardless of status, immigrants to our nation are first and foremost human beings. Removing the term ‘alien’ from our federal laws shows respect to our shared heritage and to the hundreds of millions of descendants of immigrants who call America home.”

Castro’s home state of Texas has one of the largest populations of “undocumented foreign nationals” in the United States, making up more than 6 percent of the state’s total population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Only California has a larger total population of undocumented foreign nationals than Texas, and undocumented immigrants in only California and Nevada make up larger percentages of the states’ total populations.

According to Pew, Connecticut is home to an estimated population of more than 130,000 undocumented immigrants, 3.5 percent of the total population, a ratio that has not appreciably changed since 2009.

After Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles began issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants last year, an email was sent to driving schools blaming increased wait times on the influx of applicants, as the Hartford Courant reported. DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala promptly apologized and attempted to clarify that additional staff had been hired to handle the new applications.

“Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations,” Sen. Tony Mendoza , who sponsored California’s “alien” legislation, told the Los Angeles Times in August.

“Words matter, particularly in the context of an issue as contentious as immigration,” Castro said. “Discontinuing our use of the term ‘alien’ will help lessen the prejudice and vitriol that for too long have poisoned our nation’s discussions around immigration reform. The recognition of immigrants’ personhood in our laws should bring civility to and prompt progress in our efforts to fix America’s broken immigration system.”

Courtney was one of 54 co-sponsors of Castro’s measure, the only one of Connecticut’s five-member House delegation to so far co-sponsor the bill.