5 Human Rights Laws Protecting People of Color in the U.S.

Amidst a political climate that’s left immigrants and people of color feeling discriminated against and unsafe, many states are working to ensure marginalized communities are protected

Photo: Unsplash/@nitishm

Photo: Unsplash/@nitishm

Amidst a political climate that’s left immigrants and people of color feeling discriminated against and unsafe, many states are working to ensure marginalized communities are protected.

From the recent ban on the usage of the term “illegal alien” in New York City to the ban of hair discrimination in California and New York, there are protections being put into place to combat discrimination against people of color.

As the Trump administration continues to create stricter laws surrounding immigration, it’s important to highlight some of the protections available to people of color and undocumented immigrants as well. This list highlights the five policies created to aid communities of color during a time of racist rhetoric and what feels like a surge in hate crimes and discriminatory behavior.


Use of “Illegal Alien”  or “Illegals” Terms Banned in NYC

A New York City law states that the use of “illegal alien” or “illegals” to “demean, humiliate or harass a person” is illegal, according to the New York City Commission on Human Rights. For anyone not taking the ban seriously, there’s a fine upwards of.

The commission announced that it is currently investigating four cases involving discrimination “based on threats to call ICE in order to harass, threaten or intimidate a victim,” NBC News reported.

“NYC has benefited from a history rich with contributions from immigrant communities,” Cathy Albisa, commissioner for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, said in a statement. “We honor that history by making clear that abuse of any person based on their actual or perceived immigration status will not be tolerated here.”


California Becomes First State to Ban Discrimination Against Natural Hair

California became the first state to ban discrimination based on natural hair in July 2019. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Crown Act into law, making it illegal to enforce grooming policies against hairstyles including afros, braids, twists, and locks. Crown is an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” and officially goes into effect Jan.1, 2020.

“This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms,” Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law.”


Discrimination Against Natural Hair Banned in New York

In July 2019 the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced a ban on natural hair discrimination and in July of that year the state of New York banned hair discrimination. The guidelines protect New Yorkers’ right to wear “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

Violators can be fined up to $250,000 and the commission can step in and change internal policies and rehirings if necessary. The new policy protects POC in public spaces including restaurants, as well as in workplaces and at private and public schools.


CA Law Prohibits Employers From Retaliating by Using Worker’s Immigration Status

California’s AB 263 is a law that’s been in effect since 2014 that prevents employers from retaliating against an employee by threatening to use their immigration status against them. The law breaks down the different unfair practices that are immigration-related including: requesting more or different documentation than is sufficient under federal law governing employment verification, or refusing to honor such documents that appear genuine, misusing the E-Verify system, threatening to file or filing a false report to any federal or state agency, and threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities such as ICE.

The retaliatory aspects refer to the possibility of employers using one or more of these practices in response to an employee complaining about wages they are owed, for example. The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) can investigate and fine the employer, or the employee can bring a civil lawsuit against the employer and have their attorney’s fees recovered. The fine for being found guilty of retaliation on the basis of immigration status comes can be upwards of $10,000 and the employer’s business license can be suspended for a certain amount of time. California’s AB 2571 modified the law adding that the penalty of up to $10,000 would be awarded to the employee instead of the state.


CA Law Provides Due Process for Immigrant Employees

In the wake of the largest single-day raid in U.S. History in Mississippi in August of this year, it’s important to highlight this California law that protects immigrants in the workplace. AB 450, which came into effect in 2017, allows for due process for workers in the face of an I-9 audit at work, I-9 is a form that verifies the identity and employment authorization of an individual. The laws discourage employers from using the I-9 audit process to retaliate against the employee and prohibit them from providing ICE with access to nonpublic areas of the workplace.

They also can’t provide employment records when ICE has not obtained a warrant or subpoena and they’re required to notify workers when ICE plans to conduct an audit and provide details of the audit. The fine is between $2,000 to $5,000 for the first violation and $5,000 to $10,000 for additional violations and they also can’t require an employee to re-verify their authorization to work when it’s not required by federal immigration law. The penalty for re-verification at an unauthorized time is up to $10,000 for EACH violation.

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Hair discrimination human rights Immigrant rights
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