New York City has targeted speech it believes is used to “dehumanize” illegal immigrants by banning the use of the word illegal alien and prohibiting the use of threats to call immigration authorities.
Last Thursday, New York City Hall’s Commission on Human Rights issued a 29-page directive on discriminatory offenses against immigrants. The directive explains examples of a number of types of offenses and imposes a fine of up to $250,000 per offense, the New York Post reported.
The official Twitter account for the City of New York confirmed the city’s new guidance on legal enforcement against discrimination and announced investigations of four cases where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was invoked as a threat or form of harassment.
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
The new policies suggest “alien” — a term used throughout U.S. legal jurisprudence to describe someone who is not a citizen — can carry negative connotations and the use of such words to demean or offend a person would constitute discrimination.
Other offenses in the code include harassing someone for their accent or grasp of the English language, telling someone to go back to their country of origin, or making intimidating threats to call ICE.
The directive laid out a number of hypothetical scenarios that could constitute an offense.
“An Indian immigrant family complains to their landlord about mold and cockroaches in their unit. The landlord tells them to ‘just deal with it’ and threatens to call ICE if they file a complaint in housing court,” on hypothetical reads.
Another offense might include one where a store owner “tells two friends who are speaking Thai while shopping in his store to ‘speak English’ and ‘go back to your country.'”
Another hypothetical might include a hotel policy against housekeepers speaking Spanish out of concern it might cause guests to feel uncomfortable.
“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,” Carmelyn Malalis, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, told the New York Post.
It is not entirely clear how the directive will sort against legitimate calls to ICE or how it will determine the intent of a person’s comments.
New York City has adopted “sanctuary” policies to resist compliance with federal enforcement of immigration laws.
After President Donald Trump announced ICE enforcement actions in several U.S. cities in July, several of those cities pledged to shield illegal immigrants from ICE raids to carry out deportation orders.