Opinion: New York City fine for saying ‘illegal alien’ an assault on the Constitution

By Hans von Spakovsky and Patrick Featherston | The Daily Signal

The propaganda, surveillance, and censorship of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel “1984” has now arrived in New York

The city’s Commission on Human Rights recently released new legal enforcement guidelines that ban the use of the term “illegal alien” by employers, housing providers (including hotels), and law enforcement as “discriminatory.” Violators can be punished with exorbitant and punitive fines — up to $250,000 per offense.

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

In other words, the city will now censor and penalize anyone for using the correct legal term that has been used in both federal immigration law and numerous court decisions, including by the Supreme Court.

This is an outrageous violation of the First Amendment.

Open-borders advocates and pro-illegal alien groups have been waging a propaganda war for years, very successfully, to convince media outlets and government officials to abandon the term “illegal alien.”

They want it replaced with a euphemism, the term “undocumented immigrant,” to disguise and hide the unlawful conduct of aliens who break our immigration laws and enter this country illegally.

“Undocumented immigrant,” the preferred term used by the New York commission in its guidance, is a made-up term that ignores the law.

As noted in a prior Daily Signal article, “illegal alien” is the correct legal term and it makes no sense to say you are being “offensive” when you use precise legal terminology.

Federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen explained this when issuing an injunction against President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, the so-called DAPA program:

The court also understands that there is a certain segment of the population that finds the phrase “illegal alien” offensive. The court uses this term because it is the term used by the Supreme Court in its latest pronouncement pertaining to this area of the law. See Arizona v. U.S., 132 S. Ct. 2492 (2012).

Federal immigration laws, such as 8 U.S.C. §1365, which deals with a reimbursement program the federal government has for states that are incarcerating illegal aliens, uses the term “illegal aliens” in its title and within the statute itself. An illegal alien is defined as anyone “who is in the United States unlawfully.”

In fact, last year, the Department of Justice reminded its attorneys to use proper legal language in their briefs, which means using the term “illegal aliens.” Among the problem phrases it told its lawyers to purge from their lexicon was the term “undocumented immigrant.”

So what is the city of New York going to do? Attempt to punish anyone who uses the correct legal terminology of federal law and court decisions?

This action by New York is so far outside the bounds of what it can legally do, and such a fundamental violation of the First Amendment and common sense, that it is hard to imagine it’s anything other than a fictional plot in a book like “1984.” Unfortunately, it is not fiction.

The Human Rights Commission supposedly limits the reach of this ban by saying it is only a violation when the term “illegal alien” is used with the “intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person.”

But this supposed limitation is not really a limitation since at the very same time, the commission says the very use of the word alien or alienage is “offensive” and may “carry negative connotations and dehumanize immigrants, marking them as ‘other.’”

Does anyone really believe that there are any circumstances under which the Human Rights Commission would not find the use of the term “illegal aliens” to be demeaning, humiliating, or offensive?

Anyone who believes that probably also believes that you can easily find affordable, up-scale housing in New York.

The commission has also made it illegal harassment to call federal immigration authorities about the “actual” immigration status of individuals. So if an employer finds out that an employee is in the country unlawfully by contacting the Feds, he may be found in violation of the city ordinance.

Moreover, an illegal alien can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over violations. According to the guidance, remedies, including “economic and emotional distress damages, are available under the [ordinance] regardless of an employee’s immigration status.”

In other words, an illegal alien can sue if his employer or his landlord uses the correct legal terminology in referring to his legal (sorry, illegal) status.

New York City makes it unlawful to refuse to provide housing to illegal aliens. It even has a provision on “associational discrimination” that makes it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment to a U.S. citizen that the landlord knows will have illegal aliens living in the apartment.

So if you are a human trafficker housing illegal aliens you’ve smuggled across the border in an apartment you’re renting, don’t worry. If the landlord finds out about it he will be barred from doing anything about it.

Under federal law, any individual in this country who is not a citizen is an alien. And any alien who is here without permission is here illegally. This should be the end of the story. But it is not in New York.

Justice Antonin Scalia once said that “[d]ay by day, case by case, the Supreme Court is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.” The city of New York’s Commission on Human Rights is busy doing the same thing.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain