New NYC Rule: Threaten to Call ICE on Someone Could Cost You Up To $250,000 Fine

By Kharen Martinez Murcia | October 2, 2019 | 2:52pm EDT
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( -- The NYC Commission on Human Rights issued new enforcement guidelines on Sept. 26 that make it illegal for employers or landlords to threaten to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “to harass, scare, or intimidate New Yorkers because of their actual or perceived immigration status.”  If you break this new law, you could face up to $250,000 in fines.  

“The guidance states that the use of the term ‘illegal alien,’ among others, when used with intent to demean, humiliate, or harass a person, is illegal under the law,” reads a press release from the commission. Also, harassing or discriminating against someone because they don’t speak English or have limited English proficiency is a violation of the law.

“Fines of up to $250,000 can be assessed for each act of willful discrimination, and damages are available to complainants,” states the press release.

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“We are proud to have worked with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to produce and release this important guidance as we combat the federal government’s rhetoric of fear and xenophobic policies that have threatened the health and well-being of immigrant communities,” said Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

“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,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, chair and commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “Today’s guidance makes abundantly clear that there is no room for discrimination in NYC.”

Some examples of violating the new law, according to the commission, include,

-- Harassing a restaurant patron because of their accent

-- Refusing repairs on a unit occupied by an immigrant family and threatening to call ICE if they complain

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-- Paying a lower wage or withholding wages to workers because of their immigration status

-- Harassing a store customer by telling them to stop speaking their language and demanding they speak English

According to the commission, “Approximately 3.2 million New York City residents were born outside of the United States, representing 37% of the City’s population. Nearly 1.4 million New York City residents, or 16% of the population, are noncitizens. More than 50% of children in New York City have a foreign-born parent.”

Attorney Hans Bader, who practices civil rights and constitutional law, wrote an analysis of the new law, arguing that it violates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and will not hold up to a court challenge.

“The Commission … fails to describe any real-world example or situation in which it would be legal under the ordinance to report an illegal alien to the federal government,” said Bader. “The specter of such huge fines and no safe harbor for reporting will have a huge chilling effect on citizens, discouraging them from exercising their First Amendment right to petition federal officials to remove illegal aliens.”

“Even in non-academic workplaces, New York City’s ordinance is unconstitutionally overbroad,” said Bader. “The fact that speech is offensive is not sufficient reason for the government to ban it in a private workplace.”

“The Commission’s document is aimed partly at getting employers to suppress speech about illegal immigration by their employees,” he wrote. “Laws are not supposed to pressure private entities like employers to restrict someone’s constitutionally-protected speech.”

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