A bill proposing to replace the increasingly controversial word “alien” in the Virginia code when referring to documented and illegal immigrants has passed both chambers of the General Assembly in Richmond.
Now, it’s headed to Gov. Youngkin’s desk.
Although it remains to be seen what Youngkin will do, the legislation received bipartisan support in the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia.
And it appears an update to the state code, replacing language that’s seen by many as obsolete, is imminent.
As Virginia Mercury reports:
For example, the bill replaces “legal resident aliens” with “lawfully admitted permanent residents.” Similarly, “illegal alien” is replaced with “illegally present in the United States.”
Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, the bill’s sponsor, noted that even federal immigration agencies have stopped using the word “due to its use as a slur.” Last year, the Biden administration ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection to stop using the words “alien” and “assimilation” when referring to immigrants, according to the Washington Post. In a statement issued after the bill cleared the Republican-led House of Delegates earlier this month, Lopez said Virginia is poised to become the first state in the South to follow suit.
“As a nation with such a rich and proud immigrant history, it’s unacceptable for our laws to continue to use language that has become synonymous with xenophobia and racial bigotry,” Lopez said. “This bill sends an important message: that immigrants are welcome in Virginia.”
The bill won’t remove every reference in the Virginia code, Lopez said in legislative hearings, because some are tied to specific federal programs, such as the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) program that allows state and local government to check the immigration status of anyone applying for a license or public benefit.
Lopez’s bill passed the House 78-19. On Monday, it passed the Senate, albeit by a much more competitive 22-18 margin.