NYC Council Votes to Ban the Terms ‘Alien’ and ‘Illegal Immigrant’ on Official Documents

Editors Note: This article was originally published on October 2, 2019. It was updated on July 23, 2020, after NYC officials announced the ban of terms “alien” and “illegal immigrant.”

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New York City fficials will no longer be able to use the terms “ illegal immigrant” and “alien” to refer to undocumented immigrants. The NYC Council voted on Thursday to ban the “dehumanizing and offensive” words in local laws, documents, and rules. According to speaker Corey Johnson, the term that officials will be using going forward will be “non-citizen”

Ahead of the vote, councilmember Francisco Moya stated, “These words are outdated and loaded words used to dehumanize the people they describe. It’s time to retire them. Words matter. The language we choose to use has power and consequences.” Last year, the city’s Commission of Human Rights issued a guidance making it illegal to use the terms “ illegals” or “ illegal alien” with intent to humiliate, harass, or intent to demean a person.

The guidance also made it illegal to discriminate or harass against someone for their use of “another language or their limited English proficiency, and threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a person based on discriminatory motive.”

Below is information that was published before the new updated information was included.

You have officially been warned, New York. In an attempt to stop racism around the city that never sleeps, New York officials have banned the term ‘illegal alien’ when used with “intent to demean, humiliate, or harass a person.” According to the city’s new guidelines, they have also banned discrimination against someone based on their limited English proficiency, and threats to call immigration authorities on someone based on a “discriminatory motive.”

What is the punishment if you get caught using the term? Up to $250,000 in fines. Yikes! Safe to say these NYC officials are not playing around when it comes to the safety of their people. The guidance is said to be for all public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office and Immigrant Affairs, noted they have worked with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, stating, “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.”

“Alien,” defined by the Department of Homeland Security, is a person who is not a citizen or national of the United States. In a 29-page directive, the commission outlined the way discretion is based on someone’s actual immigration status and national origin, housing, or employment. The commission listed hypothetical examples of banned discriminatory behavior including:

  • A hotel prohibiting its housekeepers from speaking another language besides English because it would then “offend” the guests.
  • A landlord threating to call ICE if an immigrant family complains in the housing court for refusing to repair a unit.
  • A store owner telling employees or customers to speak English or “go back to your country.”

Back in July, President Donald Trump received heavy criticism online after he told four non-white progressive Congresswomen to go back and “help fix the totally broken crime-infested place from which they came.” The female freshmen Democrats included Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley. All women are U.S. citizens, and Omar was born in another country.

Social media went wild after the comments, pointing to federal guidance in the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission that identified President Trump’s phrase, “Go back to where you came from,” as a language that violates anti-discrimination laws in the wake of his attacks.

According to CNN, New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio has openly voiced his opinion about the Ice raids in July in major US cities, calling for a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. He stated the President’s slogan should actually read, “Make America hate again” because he is “trying to foment division as a political campaign.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also made it a point to target discrimination statewide, signing a bill into law in August that ban employers from discriminating against job applications because of their religious attire or facial hair. The law, which amends the New York State Human Rights Law, makes it clear to anyone who has doubts that New York has “zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind.”

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