For decades, people who are undocumented and reside in the United States have been labeled in legal books as "illegal aliens," a term offensive and outdated for many.
President Joe Biden has publicly said he wants the term to be officially eliminated as part of a massive immigration overhaul.
California's newest senator, Alex Padilla, is championing that effort as chair of the immigration, citizenship and border safety sub-committee.
“I’ve been wondering for years and years and years why they label some of our neighbors, family, with the term 'aliens.' Nobody is from outer space," the senator said. "There are people coming from around the world to the United States for the American dream.”
Jose Gallegos, a San Jose resident and San Jose State University student has experienced this otherness even as he walks to campus to earn his political science degree.
“Growing up in a low income community, there’s always been discrimination," Gallegos said. "Being Latino of Mexican roots, a little bit darker shade, I definitely had those looks.”
He knows how hurtful terms such as "illegal alien" were to him and his community.
To aid in President Biden's efforts to remove the term from green cards and the U.S. code, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies are said to already be using other terms like "undocumented" and "non-citizen" in memos and public statements.
“If you’re going to start shifting the paradigm, you need to start from the very top," said political science professor Andres Quintero. He also explained terms such as "illegal alien" were first introduced to make people feel inferior.
“It harkens back to framing an argument. If right from the onset you frame someone as an illegal, they’re less than, they’re less than a human," he said.
Gallegos says he'll keep walking with his head up high, knowing the looks and insults will only make him stronger as he waits for change.