Library of Congress approves CoFIRED petition

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 3/26/16 7:13am

The Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers' petition to the Library of Congress to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal" in subject headings for immigrants has been approved, the group announced last night.

The Policy and Standards Division of the Library of Congress concluded that the phrase "illegal aliens" has become pejorative, it said in a March 22 announcement. Under the new standards, "non-citizens" and "unauthorized immigration” would replace the subject heading "illegal aliens.” The heading "aliens" would be revised to "non-citizens."

On its Facebook page, CoFIRED described the term “illegal alien” as a “dehumanizing, inaccurate, offensive and inflammatory term.”

The revisions will appear on the Library of Congress' tentative list and be approved no earlier than May. These changes would affect all libraries that use the Library of Congress Subject Heading system.

CoFIRED first petitioned the Library of Congress in the summer of 2014. The Library of Congress previously responded to the CoFIRED petition with no approval, telling the group in January that it would not alter its cataloging system.

The Library of Congress did not approve the petition initially because the phrase undocumented immigrant is not synonymous with illegal alien. Further, the Policy and Standards Division's usual sources for establishing legal terminology use illegal aliens. The division chose to keep the established heading and continue to look into the situation.

The momentum behind this policy change emerged in the spring of 2014, when CoFIRED members learned that Baker-Berry Library could not alter its language from "illegal" to "undocumented" when referring to immigrants. The library — bound by a system of subject headings set by the Library of Congress — did not have the power to enact its own changes.The library staff helped the group formulate the petition and provided additional support.

This story will be updated as more information is reported.