An immigration reform activist finds it "absolutely absurd" that the city of New York is threatening to fine people up to a quarter-million dollars for using the term "illegal alien."
The New York City Commission on Human Rights has made it illegal to either call someone an "illegal alien" or to threaten to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on them – and those who partake in either of these acts can be fined up to $250,000 per offense.
The Commission claims in a 29-page directive that the term "alien" – used in many laws to refer to a noncitizen – is a loaded phrase meant to categorize migrants as "other" and to dehumanize them.
"The use of certain language, including 'illegal alien' and 'illegals,' with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons constitutes discrimination," one passage of the directive states.
The Commission also says its action is primarily in opposition to illegal immigration crackdowns by the federal government.
Matt O'Brien is director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
"It's absolutely absurd. The fact is if someone is unlawfully present in the United States, they're an illegal alien," he points out. "That's a legal a term – and the distinction is a legal one. It's like this ridiculousness in San Francisco where you can't call somebody who is a convicted felon a 'felon' anymore; you have to call them a 'justice-involved' person."
According to O'Brien, discouraging individuals from contacting ICE about an illegal alien could be problematic.
"Somebody who is threatening to report someone to ICE – if they know that the person is illegal but doesn't [report them] – could theoretically, under the federal statutes, be guilty of harboring an illegal alien," he argues.
O'Brien predicts these edicts by the New York City Commission on Human Rights could ultimately be challenged in federal court.