On Thursday, the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced that residents who use terms like “illegal alien” in a demeaning or harassing fashion could face fines of up to $250,000. Similarly, threatening to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), when the motivation for the threat is discriminatory, could lead to financial penalties.
“Hate has no place here,” said a tweet from the City of New York, according to a report by Fox News.
“Threatening to call ICE when motivated by discrimination, derogatory use of the term ‘illegal alien,’ and discrimination based on limited English proficiency are unlawful discriminatory treatment under the NYC Human Rights Law.”
The city also said that telling a person to “go back to your country” could be illegal.
NYC clarified that contacting ICE is only considered a violation if there is a “discriminatory motive.” It isn’t immediately clear what would or would not qualify, based on that context alone.
“Fines of up to $250,000 can be assessed for each act of willful discrimination, and damages are available to complainants,” said NYC.
“The NYC Commission on Human Rights,” said the announcement, “…defines discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual immigration status and national origin under the New York City Human Rights Law in public accommodation, employment, and housing.”
The commission has enacted other language bans that could carry similar fines. Previously, it ruled that employers and landlords had to use their employees’ or tenants’ preferred pronouns or risk a fine up to $250,000 if the refusal to do so was considered “willful, wanton, or malicious.”
Using the phrases “illegal” or “alien” when describing immigrants has also come under fire in other situations. The Associated Press bans reporters from referring to individuals as “illegal,” though does permit its use when relating to actions – such as “illegal immigration” – or in direct quotes.
Rep. Ilham Omar posted a tweet in June after President Donald Trump used the term “alien,” stating, “No one is an ‘alien.’”
However, Sen. Ted Cruz countered Omar’s point, noting that “illegal alien” is a term that is used under federal law.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a similar assertion, reportedly directing Justice Department officials and employees to use the term “illegal alien.”
In an agency-wide email, Sessions reportedly wrote: “The word ‘undocumented’ is not based in US code and should not be used to describe someone’s illegal presence in the country,” and states that those who are not in the country legally should be referred to as “an illegal alien.”