What's in a name? Apparently when it comes to immigration, everything. The Library of Congress has thrown its own log into the immigration debate fire in Washington by making a move to drop the term "illegal alien" in favor of "non-citizens" or "unauthorized immigration" for cataloging and search purposes.
The move came in response to a petition from the American Library Association to change immigration-related search terms to make them less judgmental.
The library's move, announced in a three-page statement last month, was met with outrage from conservatives, who asked that a provision to block it be added to legislation that funds the legislative branch and its agencies, which include the Library of Congress.
"This needless policy change by the Library of Congress embodies so much of what taxpayers find enraging about Washington," said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., in a statement introducing similar legislation. "By trading common-sense language for sanitized political-speak, they are caving to the whims of left-wing special interests and attempting to mask the grave threat that illegal immigration poses to our economy, our national security, and our sovereignty."
The library makes cataloging changes 3,000-4,000 times a year, says Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the top Democrat on the legislative funding panel. She says the move inserts a "poison pill" into a normally nonpartisan annual funding bill.
"The Library is in the business of language and nomenclature and should be free to make these decisions outside of the political spectrum," said Wasserman Schultz. She likened it to dropping archaic words like "negro" and "oriental."
"What is so controversial about asking the library to use references that are found in the United States Code?" countered Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who inserted the provision into the spending bill this week.
In fact, the library said in a March 26 statement that "the phrase illegal aliens has taken on a pejorative tone in recent years" and added that "aliens" can be confusing since it can also mean beings from another planet.