Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly referred to “criminal aliens” and “illegal aliens” in the immigration plan he released on Sunday. “Alien,” and especially “illegal alien,” have become such staples in the vocabulary of conservative pundits and politicians that many immigrant rights advocates now reject those terms as derogatory and dehumanizing.
But it wasn’t always like that.
Take this excerpt from a letter that a group of Mexican-American law students wrote to the editor of the Los Angeles Times in 1970. They sent it after the paper ran an editorial with a headline that included the term “wetback.”
“We are still faced with insensitive and racist terms, such as wetback, to refer to Mexican nationals who have entered the country illegally,” the students wrote, “and we are now educating the public to use terms like illegal aliens or illegal entrants.”