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SBA Senate condemns language ‘dehumanizing’ undocumented immigrants

Anthony Peltier | Staff Photographer
SBA Sen. Nicole Karem said the dehumanizing words evoke prejudice against undocumented immigrants within and outside of the courtroom.

The Student Bar Association Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the use of “dehumanizing” language about undocumented immigrants in internal and external communications at its meeting Tuesday.

The resolution urges GW Law community members to refrain from using the words “illegal,” “alien” and “assimilation” in reference to undocumented immigrants – orders in line with President Joe Biden’s guidance on language that immigration enforcement agencies may use. SBA Sen. Nicole Karem, a second-year law student and the co-sponsor of the resolution, said she saw many undocumented immigrants enter the United States from countries like Honduras when she was working in a law immigration center this summer.

“Words matter, language matters, words in this bill are dehumanizing when calling another human being illegal or alien,” Karem said at the meeting.

Karem said these words “evoke prejudice” against undocumented immigrants within and outside of the courtroom. The resolution cites recent standards set by Biden’s administration, the Associated Press and other news outlets who have stopped using these words to describe immigrants.

“So for those of you more First Amendment ardent supporters, I personally am a Texan, I’m not inclined to sensing language in general,” said SBA Sen. Pavan Patamalla, a third-year law student. “However, this bill actually echoes a lot of the sentiments put out by the administration when they issued their guidance to the border patrol and ICE agencies.”

The senate passed a similar resolution last spring, but SBA President Jordan Michel vetoed the bill so the senate could better research and understand the immigrant community at GW.

Senators also passed a joint resolution with the executive branch condemning Islamophobia, hate speech and other forms of harassment at GW. The resolution states the law school is to “cherish and celebrate” the diversity offered by its Muslim community.

“The law school must ensure that all students, no matter their religious affiliation, feel not only tolerated but welcomed and embraced by the institution at large,” the resolution reads.

The senate also passed two bills approving the constitutions of two new student organizations housed within GW Law – the Space Law Association and the Law Economic Society. Senators also approved $600 of ad hoc funding to the Muslim Law Student Association to pay for all of its club events for the remainder of the year.

The next senate meeting will be held on Nov. 9 at 9:15 p.m. in the Law Learning Center.

Lauren Sforza contributed reporting.

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