Gianaris bill would protect immigrants under NY’s hate crimes law

Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens.


Senator Michael Gianaris introduced legislation that would add immigration status to the list of protected classes in the state’s Human Rights and Civil Right Laws.

Gianaris’s proposal (S.963) would make it a violation to discriminate against a person based on immigration status and would expand current civil remedies for bias-related crimes to include those targeted due to their immigration status.

“Immigrants are under siege like never before and we have an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of those who came to our country seeking a better life,” said Gianaris, whose own parents came to the U.S. from Greece.

The Queens Democrat notes in the bill language that New York is a state built upon immigration with a unique history and understanding of the immigrant experience.

New York’s Human Rights Law protects people from a wide range of discrimination on the basis of age, race, sexual orientation and gender, among other categories. The law provides a remedy for those discriminated against in the provision of several services including but not limited to housing, employment and public accommodation.

Current Civil Rights Law, which would be expanded to include immigration status under this proposed law, provides the opportunity for victims of hate crimes to bring civil actions against their attackers.

“With our president-elect threatening to deport millions of immigrants who came to America to build a better life for themselves and their families, this bill is one way to resist the hate and stand up for a free New York,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

Following the election, documented incidents of hate crimes, harassment and intimidation soared throughout the country including here in New York.

This is a new bill, and it would take effect 60 days after being passed and signed into law. It was introduced to the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee on January 5.

There is no same-as bill in the Assembly.

“We commend State Senator Gianaris on introducing this bill calling to include ‘immigration status’ in the definition of ‘national origin’ in anti-discrimination law,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Given the current political climate that has been marked by an increase in hate crimes, it is more important than ever that we ensure that New Yorkers, including undocumented New Yorkers, legal permanent residents, visa holders, and others, are equally protected.”