New York City can now fine residents up to $250,000 if they refer to someone as an “illegal alien” or threaten to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on someone “when motivated by discrimination.”
The NYC Commission on Human Rights announced on Sept. 26 that they had released a new legal enforcement guideline (pdf) that clarifies discrimination based on someone’s immigration status and national origin is illegal in any public accommodations, employment, and housing. According to the guidance, public accommodations include “businesses such as restaurants, fitness clubs, stores, and nightclubs, and other public spaces, like parks, libraries, healthcare providers, and cultural institutions.”
Any violations of the law could be fined up to $250,000.
New York City has made it illegal to threaten to call ICE based on a discriminatory motive or to tell someone "go back to your country." Hate has no place here. pic.twitter.com/8PaIozjQty
— City of New York (@nycgov) September 26, 2019
“This new legal enforcement guidance will help ensure that no New Yorker is discriminated against based on their immigration status or national origin,” said Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson in a press release on Sept. 26.
Under the guidance, phrases such as “illegal alien,” and “go back to your country” used with the intent to “demean, humiliate, or harass” a person is illegal under the law. Moreover, it states that harassing or discriminating a person based on their use of another language or their limited English proficiency is also against the law.
In its 29-page directive, the commission lists several examples as to what would constitute a violation of the law, which includes harassing people based on their immigration status or discriminating someone based on their accent.
“An immigrant shop owner asks a couple of customers to leave his store after they start breaking merchandise. The customers tell the owner he should ‘go back to where he came from,’ and exit the shop. The next morning, the owner discovers that the windows have been smashed and the walls spray-painted with anti-immigrant obscenities,” one example said.
“An employer interviews a highly qualified applicant for a new position. Upon hearing the applicant’s accent, the employer decides not to hire them, assuming that their accent indicates that the applicant is not very smart,” another example states.
This comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed opposition to a nationwide ICE enforcement operation targeting illegal immigrants who have received final deportation orders issued by immigration judges.
Carmelyn Malalis, the agency’s commissioner, told the New York Post that the new guidelines were partly made in response to a crackdown on illegal immigration by the federal government.
“In the face of increasingly hostile national rhetoric, we will do everything in our power to make sure our treasured immigrant communities are able to live with dignity and respect, free of harassment and bias,” Malalis told the newspaper.
Federal immigration officials have reported record highs in the apprehension of illegal immigrants at the border to Congress in the past months, saying that the numbers have overwhelmed border patrol facilities and resources. In May, border patrol agents apprehended or deemed inadmissible over 144,000 people crossing from Mexico—which were record-high numbers. The number of people apprehended or deemed inadmissible has been steadily falling after President Donald Trump pushed Mexico, through the threat of tariffs, to put more focus on the humanitarian crisis.
According to the city, 37 percent of the city’s population was born outside the United States, meanwhile, 16 percent of the population are noncitizens. New York City is also a sanctuary city, which refers to a city that limits its cooperation with ICE to enforce immigration law.