(redirected from alienness)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial.


alien, in law, any person residing in one political community while owing allegiance to another. A procedure known as naturalization permits aliens to become citizens.

Each nation establishes conditions upon which aliens will be admitted, and makes laws concerning them. Most countries, including the United States, forbid or limit the admission of criminals, paupers, and the diseased. Certain groups and nationalities may be unconditionally excluded from legal residence, but such discrimination is likely to cause international friction.

Aliens, while they reside in a country, are subject to its laws and not to those of their home country, except in cases of extraterritoriality jurisdiction. A state distinguishes between aliens who are merely traveling or living there temporarily and those who have come to stay or work; wider powers are assumed over the second group. In the United States, permanent resident status may entitle an alien to a “green card,” and thus to seek employment, and aliens have many of the privileges afforded to citizens, including public assistance and the right to attend public schools, even if they are in the country illegally. The Immigration and Nationality (McCarran-Walter) Act of 1952 requires aliens to register each year with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service).

As citizens of another country, aliens may call on it to intercede in legal matters. Their home state may point out or protest injustice and may also threaten reprisals; such situations have frequently caused international disputes. On the other hand, aliens may find asylum in a country to which they have fled, unless treaties of extradition provide for their return. A state may for political or legal reasons expel an alien who has been admitted, by a procedure called deportation.

In time of war, laws governing aliens are usually stricter, and enemy aliens (nationals of enemy countries) may be restricted in various ways. Treaties between most governments provide for reasonable periods at the beginning of hostilities during which aliens may withdraw under supervision. World War II saw registration requirements and the exclusion of enemy aliens from certain U.S. areas, but the removal from their homes and internment in camps of Japanese on the West Coast applied to Americans of Japanese descent as well as to aliens.

Population and economic pressures periodically cause host countries to become less hospitable to aliens. In the 20th and 21st cent., U.S. immigration and deportation laws have changed in reaction to varying conditions. The “Red Scare” at the end of World War I brought a wave of deportations of anarchists and other radicals.

Illegal aliens are citizens of foreign countries who lack legal status in the country in which they are living. In the United States, most recent illegal aliens have come from Latin America and Asia, with the majority of illegal aliens coming from Mexico during the 1980s to mid-2000s, when illegal immigration was at particularly high levels. A 1986 law designed to stem the flow of these aliens made it illegal to hire them and granted legal status to those who could prove continuous residence in the U.S. since before 1982. Special allowances were made for seasonal farm workers. Although an estimated 3.9 million aliens were eligible for legal status, only about half applied before the May 1988 deadline. Subsequently, the number of illegal aliens steadily increased from 1990 to 2007, when there were an estimated 12.2 million. Since 2007, however, the number has fallen, to around 11 million; at the same time, Central Americans have made up an increasing portion of the illegal aliens in the United States.

In the 1990s politicians, including many in such states as California, where large numbers of illegal aliens reside, introduced state or federal legislation aimed at denying various privileges and benefits to aliens, in some cases even to those legally in the United States. A 1996 federal act led to a rapid increase in deportation of aliens who had not immigrated legally, and the INS grew to become the largest federal law-enforcement agency.

Illegal immigration has remained a contentious issue in the 21st cent., especially in those states bordering Mexico. Arizona voters, for example, passed (2004) a measure that requires public officials to turn in illegal immigrants who seek public services, including police and fire assistance, and in 2010 its legislature enacted a second measure that required local law officers to check the status of anyone they stopped who they believe might be an illegal alien. A number of other states have since adopted or considered laws intended to arrest or penalize illegal immigrants or those who hire or aid them, but a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision largely limited to the federal government the right to enact and enforce immigration law.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about aliens?

An alien in a dream may indicate that there is difficulty adjusting to new conditions or a new environment. Space aliens may indicate issues about ones boundaries; the dreamer may feel his or her personal life is being invaded.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


1. a person owing allegiance to a country other than that in which he lives; foreigner
2. (in science fiction) a being from another world, sometimes specifically an extraterrestrial
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Occasionally, people will have dreams about UFOs and aliens. What these dreams symbolize, collectively or individually, is difficult to explain and understand. Meeting and talking to aliens may suggest that significant changes are coming into your life and, at the moment, things feel strange and foreign to you. If you dream that you are the alien, it suggests that you may feel detached from some parts of yourself and from others. You may be a stranger in your immediate surroundings, and some self-evaluation and familiarization is suggested.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
And so we find the kindly nun Marietta showing her credentials as a "good" character by declaring--in a Catholic convent, no less--that God "needs no studied oration, no pompous prayer; he requires the genuine language of the heart." (43) By contrast, when Marcello first encounters the monk Ubaldo--"a tall pallid figure, clad in the monastic habit"--he recoils from his alienness, which the text clearly ties to the Church: "something in his manner ...
But such alienness is not to be mistaken for alienation; it is, rather, a key component of the couple's enduring magnetism.
Many images confront us with the animal's alienness, its absolute inhumanity, denying our attempts to decipher our own reflections in their countenance.
For Marshall Brown world literature is defined in terms of close encounters and their "shock value", with readers facing the literary as that which "retains its alienness even in the original" (Brown "Encountering the World" 2011: 364).
Pilzer later compares Bae Chunhui's representation of the Chinese exotic in "Love Song of the Steppe" (track 14) "as a way of understanding, expressing, and rendering intelligible her own alienness" to Das Lied von der Erde (121).
George reads Jameson's essay as asserting that "not all texts are political, but that all politics in these texts is national allegory" and that these texts are thus "alien." Jameson's notion of "alienness" is significant, according to George, only because it is an "obstacle in the path of easy consumption" for a particular audience (103).
Because the timeline of the uncanny is not chronological, it invites us to resist the impulse to read only some texts--usually modern, postcolonial, emergent, or otherwise belated texts--in the shadow of their greater others, and to recognize instead a ghostly alienness animating every text." (16)
In Under Western Eyes, the dominant images of Russia are, as in "Autocracy and War," autocracy, destructiveness, and alienness, here in the form of Russia's incomprehensibility to Westerners.
However, Aadam's faith in a political romantic space never fully transforms him into an insider within Indian culture: "We throw our lot in with India; but the alienness of blue eyes remains.
Hearing the sounds communicates ideas about the different atmospheres and highlights the sheer alienness of the other worlds in our solar system.
\'93Many visitors to Turkey at all times have been concerned (as I am) to feel as strongly as possible the alienness of the place, not its familiarity.