Cruz, Braun slam Library of Congress decision to change labeling into "non-offensive" words

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

The Library of Congress (LOC) veered away from true language in American law and landed in some hot water with Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Braun. LOC decided to change subject headings to replace the terms “aliens” and “illegal aliens” with “noncitizens” and “illegal immigration”.

At a regularly scheduled meeting of the LOC’s Policy and Standards Division on November 12, an announcement was made that a change would be made in the wording of the headings. The Policy and Standards Division maintains the LOC’s Subject Headings. This is a victory for a long-running campaign to make the change, including from some in the library community. The battle goes back to 2016 when the LOC was petitioned by several advocacy groups to make the change. It agreed to do so then but a group of conservative members of Congress objected. The conservatives added a provision to an appropriations bill that required the library to retain the terminology. That appropriation bill’s provision was a first in the library’s history. LOC claimed it was just a “routine cataloging matter.”

Full steam ahead. American libraries have devolved into an arm of the progressive social justice movement that demands American terminology be rewritten and obscured.

According to the ALA, the revisions are scheduled to appear soon on Special List 21-11B, and librarians say that subject headings on existing LC bibliographic records will then be updated “as expeditiously as possible.”

In a statement, the American Library Association (ALA), which has been advocating for the change for years, praised the Library of Congress’s long awaited action.

“We are pleased that the Library of Congress is replacing these subject headings, which are both outdated and dehumanizing,” said ALA president Patty Wong. “This update better reflects common terminology and respects library users and library workers from all backgrounds. It also reflects the core value of social justice for ALA members, who have been at the vanguard of this change for years.”

The problem with this adventure into the Land of the Woke by the Library of Congress is that it changes words in the U.S. code and other legal documents. Senator Cruz, a member of the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Library of Congress (LOC), and Senator Mike Braun, Ranking Member of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, this week sent a letter to the Honorable Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. The senators point out that the Biden administration made the decision to politicize traditional language used by the Supreme Court and in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The LOC is following along, despite the objections of members of Congress.

Now, after the Biden administration has made the political decision to order U.S. immigration agencies to stop using the term ‘illegal alien,’ the LOC has followed suit and released a report stating that ‘the time has come’ to make the changes that we strenuously objected to five years ago. This decision is nothing but a politically-motivated and Orwellian attempt to manipulate and control language.

Dating back over 100 years, ‘aliens’ is one of the oldest headings used by LOC, and for a clear reason: the term ‘alien’ has appeared in the original sources contained in the LOC catalog created across centuries.

Hundreds of years later in 2021, ‘alien’ remains the official term for such persons as codified in federal laws governing citizenship, nationality, and immigration. It is defined in the opening section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as ‘any person not a citizen or national of the United States.

Further, Congress has not decided to afford the term ‘noncitizen’—a euphemism or culturally preferred term in some partisan circles for ‘alien’—with a controlling definition in our laws. Indeed, although some members of Congress have recently introduced various legislation to replace the term ‘alien’ in the U.S. Code and other legal documents, these bills have not have not reached a committee vote, have not passed, and are not law. Additionally, the Supreme Court of the United States routinely has used and continues to use the official term ‘alien’ when deciding cases.

Replacing words in search terms, indexes, or indexing language for political reasons is an abuse of the trust that Congress has placed in the Library to accurately and neutrally compile original sources and make them easily accessible to the public.

The LOC is the largest library in the world. It holds “the preeminent collection of books, recordings, photographs, and manuscripts in the United States”, as the letter characterizes the contents in the library. Indexing language is tied to the terms and vocabulary used in catalogs. The indexing language should match the vocabulary and language of the indexed sources to make it searchable.

Replacing words in search terms, indexes, or indexing language for political reasons is an abuse of the trust that Congress has placed in the Library to accurately and neutrally compile original sources and make them easily accessible to the public. If the LOC is concerned that new users conditioned on new language are increasingly searching for immigration euphemisms and having difficulty finding relevant sources, the LOC is welcome to add those new terms in “see reference” notations to help direct users to the underlying source materials. But what is entirely unacceptable is elevating politically-motivated phrases above legally accurate and historically-based phrases actually used in source material.

This seems like a reasonable objection and a solution is offered – use the popular language of today as a “see reference” notation.

The LOC decision feels a lot like the one made by the National Archives and Records Association in September. It decided to slap labels of “Harmful Content” on the Constitution and other founding documents. The CDC has published a “non-stigmatizing language” guide, too. This nonsense needs to stop. In this case, the word “alien” is part of written law, dating back to the Naturalization Act of 1798. What’s next for revisionists? Will they be claiming entitlement to re-write founding documents next so as not to offend anyone? Good grief.