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Phillip J. Murphy Attorney at Law New City Criminal Defense Attorney
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New York City Makes It Illegal to Discriminate Against Immigrants


In a somewhat unprecedented move, in early October, New York City moved to make and act on discrimination against immigrants illegal by declaring new guidance on an existing law, which dictates that it is illegal to use the term “illegal alien” to “demean, humiliate, or harass” someone in the workplace. The new guidance makes a number of related violations punishable via a $250,000 fine, which can be assessed for each “act of willful discrimination.” Deputy Mayor Phil Thomson declared that the purpose of the law is to ensure that no one is discriminated against based on immigration status or national origin.

What, Exactly, Is Now Illegal?

Some examples of what is now illegal under the new guidance includes:

  • Threatening to evict an immigrant family who requests repairs on a unit that you own as a landlord;
  • Harassing a patron due to their accent; and
  • Paying workers lower wages because of their immigration status; amongst other similar actions.

The guidance also:

  • Defines discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived immigration status and national origin, as it applies to employment, housing, etc.
  • States that harassing or discriminating against someone for their limited English proficiency is a violation; and
  • Makes threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) based on a discriminatory motive a violation.

The guidance extends to people using both public and private facilities, such as restaurants. Prior to the development and release of the new guidance, New York City Human Rights Law already prohibited bias-based profiling by law enforcement.

How Is It Enforced?

The law is enforced by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Those who feel that their rights have been violated have the option of filing a complaint with the Commission’s Law Enforcement Bureau, but they must act quickly, and file within one year of the discriminatory act. Alternatively, they also have the option of filing a complaint in court (ideally with the assistance of an attorney) within three years of the discriminatory act.

Contact Our New York Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Attorneys with Any Questions

Almost 40 percent of New York City’s entire population is comprised of individuals born outside of the United States, and more than 60 percent of all New Yorkers live in a household with at least one immigrant. Millions of immigrants make up the fabric of our communities and contribute in countless ways.

If you have been involved in an immigration-related incident, our New York criminal defense attorneys work to both ensure that you have the very best defense against any allegations that you have broken the law, as well as ensuring that your civil rights are protected here in New York. Contact us today at the office of Phillip J. Murphy to find out more about our services.


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