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New York A.G. Letitia James Proposes Employment Protections for Illegal Immigrants

— February 8, 2019

New York Attorney General Letitia James plans to propose legislation that’d fine or jail employers who try to intimidate workers over their legal status.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is proposing measures to punish employers who discriminate against illegal immigrants.

The bill is intended to combat retaliation against migrants who complain about working conditions or pay. In New York, the labor department has investigated ‘at least’ 30 cases involving threats to employees’ legal status.

While the attorney general has no authority to dictate law, James encouraged state legislators protect undocumented aliens from blackmail and exploitation.

To that end, the Associated Press reports that James is drafting a bill. Along with sharpening the language of existing law outlining whistleblower protections, the attorney general’s measure seeks to expand definitions of retaliatory conduct to include threats to workers’ immigration statuses.

Potential punishments, notes the AP, might jail-time or a $20,000 fine. ‘

The state labor department already uses civil law to penalize employers accused of threatening a worker’s visa status or lack thereof. While retaliation is typically classified as a misdemeanor in New York, some advocates want the attorney general to push for its categorization as a felony in cases involving immigrants.

Image of Trump on the campaign trail in Laconia, New Hampshire
Trump on the campaign trail in Laconia, New Hampshire image courtesy of Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons,

“New York State was built by immigrants and it has always stood proudly as a beacon of hope and opportunity no matter where you were born,” James said. “If President Trump is going to demonize immigrants and unscrupulous employers are going to exploit them, we’re ready to fight back against them.”

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump expressed his desire to sponsor more legal immigrants than ever before.

But the commander-in-chief has continued his crackdown on their unauthorized counterparts, claiming that illegal immigration threatens the integrity of the United States.

“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” Trump said. “Meanwhile, working class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration—reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.”

James’ proposal, observes the Associated Press, follows claims made by a Trump Organization maid that she was threatened with deportation if she complained about potentially abusive working conditions.

The Trump Organization, in a statement, said it investigate the allegations and found them lacking merit.

“A thorough investigation into these claims was conducted immediately after they were brought to our attention,” a spokesperson said. “No evidence was found to substantiate these allegations.”

New York deputy commissioner for worker protection Jim Rogers says the state has imposed at least $250,000 in penalties and damages against employers for retaliating against migrants in the past three years.

Rogers says the biggest offenders are the service, agriculture and construction industries.

“There is a flood of that kind of harassment in the workplace,” Rogers told the Associated Press. “We protect every single worker who works in New York, regardless of their citizenship or their documentation status. Everybody gets the same protections. But people don’t know that, and they live under a lot of fear.”


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