CHICAGO (CBS) -- An Illinois state senator has proposed eliminating the word alien from state laws when referring to people from other countries.
Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) got the idea from a group of students at Solorio Academy High School. They want to replace the word "alien" with "undocumented immigrant" in state laws.
"This word is offensive. It is also racist. Not only that, but this word also dehumanizes them. These people are the same as any other citizen in this country," freshman Delila Lopez said.
Solorio High School is in the Gage Park neighborhood, which has 11,000 undocumented immigrants, the third highest concentration of undocumented immigrants in Illinois, according to Sandoval.
The senator said the word "alien" has been used mostly in commerce and labor law, likely "a handful of times."
"There's no room for derogatory, immoral definitions like alien for our community," Sandoval said. "Illinois is a state of immigrants, and yet our state government continues to use terms that dehumanize and ostracize those in our society who happen to have been born elsewhere."
Solorio High School English teacher Wendy Hush said her students mentioned they do not like to hear the word "alien" used to describe undocumented immigrants, so she encouraged them to do something about it.
"I don't mind when it's used to describe ET, or a Martian from outer space; but I do mind, however, when the word alien is used to describe my students, or people from other countries," she said.
Students convinced Sandoval to propose the change in state law.
"We shouldn't be considered as alien, because we all come from the same planet, the same Earth," student Abigail Rivera said.
Sandoval's proposal has won unanimous support of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and awaits a vote by the full Illinois Senate. A nearly identical measure has been approved by the Illinois House and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
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