In the midst of racist rhetoric and dehumanizing policies against immigrants, New York City is taking a stand by banning the use of the term “illegal alien.” 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 and it’s about time!
The new 29-page guideline defines “discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual immigration status and national origin under the New York City Human Rights Law in public accommodations, employment, and housing.” It also states that harassment or discrimination against someone for using another language or limited English or threatening to call ICE would be in violation of the new law. The fine for violating this law can be up to $250,000.
“We take immense pride in our city’s diversity and the immigrant communities that call New York City home,” Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson said in a statement. “This new legal enforcement guidance will help ensure that no New Yorker is discriminated against based on their immigration status or national origin.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are an estimated 940,000 undocumented individuals in New York and the majority, at 18 percent, are from Mexico. Recent estimates put the Latinx population in New York City at about 2.5 million, making up about 29 percent of the population.
Puerto Ricans and Dominicans each makeup about 29 percent of the Latinx population and together making up half of the Latinx population in NYC, according to a publication by the American Sociological Association.
Discrimination on the basis of immigration status and national origin has been illegal for decades under the NYC Human Rights Law. This new guidance provides specific examples of discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment including paying a lower wage, harassing someone for speaking a language other than English or refusing to repair a unit occupied by an immigrant family and threatening to call ICE if they complain.
“At a time when hateful political rhetoric is engendering a climate where private employers and landlords are increasingly discriminating and retaliating against immigrant workers and tenants on the basis of their status, these kinds of enforcement actions are urgently needed,” Jessie Hahn, a labor and policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement accompanying the commission’s announcement.