Proud “undocumented Filipino American” Jose Antonio Vargas recently revealed his membership in the Word Police when he alerted the editors of the Washington Post that one of its reporters was using the words “illegal” and “illegal alien” in his tweets.
Vargas has an op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times in which he explains the problem with the word “alien” and gives kudos to Gov. Jerry Brown for earlier this week signing a bill that will remove from the California labor code the word “alien” to describe foreign-born workers.
The bill to remove the word was written by Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza, “because it is now commonly considered a derogatory term with very negative connotations.”
In his op-ed, Vargas adds that the word alien “is nothing but alienating. And when coupled with ‘illegal,’ it’s especially toxic. The words seep into the psyche, sometimes to the point of paralysis. They’re dehumanizing.”
“Of course, changing a word here and there can’t fully address the tangible problems facing the country’s undocumented population,” he adds. “But language frames the political conversation. And more humane language can lead to more humane policies, and vice versa.”