The mayor of Somerville, Mass., has banned the use of the term “illegals” when referring to illegal aliens.
Mayor and Alderman Joe Curtatone announced the new policy at a local board meeting last week, according to the Somerville Journal.
The decision was made after a “team of youths” urged the city to stop using the “hurtful” term. “I hadn’t given it a thought until they brought to my attention how hurtful that term is,” Board President Tom Taylor said. “Some of their testimony is pretty heart wrenching.”
One testimony came from Elis Melara, a 14-year-old whose cousin was deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last year. “The way he said those words made me angry,” she said, referencing the word illegal.
“The officer made him seem like a criminal. He was talking about my cousin like he didn’t matter. He matters to me,” Melara said. “The word ‘illegal’ is a wrong way to describe a human being. A better word is ‘undocumented.’ I am thankful that I am an American and can do something about it.”
Curtatone, who is serving his fifth term as mayor since being elected in 2003, said his community has “always been a city of hope for immigrants around the world.”
“We made it clear here that whatever your status is, wherever you’re from, we are your mayor, we’re your aldermen, this is your city and we’re here to service you,” he said. “Anyone who wants to be a part of this city is welcome here.”
Somerville, which is just north of Cambridge, has a population of 76,519 people. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Massachusetts has an estimated illegal immigrant population of 190,000 as of 2010.