In New York it's now illegal to threaten to report someone to ICE

Originally published in Albany Times Union

ALBANY — It is now illegal in New York to threaten to report someone’s immigration status.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last week a bill that classifies such threats as extortion or coercion. Previously, such threats were treated as a crime solely in cases of labor and sex trafficking.

“This legislation will protect New Yorkers from bad actors who use extortion or coercion due to their immigration status, and make our state safer against vile threats and intimidation,” Hochul said in a press release.

California, Colorado, Maryland and Virginia have enacted similar pieces of legislation.

Research has found that undocumented immigrants face threats to report their immigration status to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from employers, landlords, abusive partners and more. Studies found a rise in the number of those threats during the administration of President Donald Trump, who touted a “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration.

Local immigration advocacy groups have seen such threats recently, with landlords threatening to call ICE if their tenants didn't vacate their apartment that day.

"While recent local Good Cause Eviction victories seek to protect tenants, we hope this legislation will strengthen the rights of immigrant tenants, workers and survivors of domestic violence whose abusers use their immigration status to intimidate them," said Ivy Hest, director of communications and administration at the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement. "Still, we want to ensure that the reporting process is transparent, easy, accessible in many languages, and safe for those reporting these violations."

State Sen. Anna Kaplan, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is a "long-overdue measure."

“For an undocumented immigrant who fled danger in their home country, being reported to ICE can be a death sentence, yet sadly, far too many people are willing to take advantage of our more vulnerable neighbors by threatening to reveal their immigration status in order to exploit them in some way,” she said in a statement. “We're updating the laws on extortion and coercion to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers aren't left vulnerable to such vile threats.”