New York City is cracking down on xenophobia, with new guidelines that ban calling people "illegal aliens" in an attempt to "demean, humiliate, or harass" them; threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an attempt to discriminate; or telling anyone to "speak English" or "go back to your country." The penalty for defying the prohibition by the city's Commission on Human Rights is steep—a possible $250,000 fine for each instance. The city first announced the ban last week, noting: "Hate has no place here." "We are proud to have worked with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to produce and release this important guidance as we combat the federal government's rhetoric of fear and xenophobic policies that have threatened the health and well-being of immigrant communities," says Bitta Mostofi, head of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs.
The commission released a 29-page directive to help guide the enforcement of this mandate, which is a human rights effort to make sure "no New Yorker is discriminated against based on their immigration status or national origin," per Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson. The commission says it's currently looking into at least four cases in which ICE was dangled as a threat to intimidate or harass. The guidelines apply to employment and housing, as well as to all users of public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, nightclubs, parks, and other public spaces. Damages will also be available to complainants. "Today’s guidance makes abundantly clear that there is no room for discrimination in NYC," commission chief Carmelyn P. Malalis says in the release. (Read more discrimination stories.)