New York, NY - Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) introduced a bill into the New York State Senate today that will help undocumented immigrants throughout the state make use of emergency services.
The proposal will make it the policy of New York state officials to keep sensitive information, including immigration status, confidential. It will help immigrants report crimes without the fear of having immigration authorities informed.
The bill, S. 6738, provides for disclosure of information in specific cases; for example, if the individual is engaged in criminal activity.
"Too often, undocumented immigrants are afraid to go to the proper officials. This is bad public policy when you consider they can help prevent or resolve crimes," Senator Serrano said. "This is a bill to make all New Yorkers safe by adding additional eyes to the law enforcement network."
The proposed bill is modeled on New York City Mayor Bloomberg's Executive Order 41, protecting against disclosure of not just immigration status, but also sexual orientation, crime victim status, public assistance status, and other information.
Senator Serrano's bill goes further in creating a mechanism to register complaints against uncooperative public officials. Agencies that employ non-compliant individuals could face a civil penalty.
"Undocumented immigrants have been treated as second-class people for far too long," Senator Serrano said. "This is an attempt to encourage dignity and respect for all New Yorkers, regardless of how they got here. Citizenship should not be a pre-requisite to equal protection before the law."
He continued: "There is no more important time to protect immigrant rights. During the recent licensing controversy, we saw that anti-immigrant rhetoric has grown across our state and country. It is time that the government draws a line in the sand to protect those who make important contributions to our society, and yet are too often forced into the margins and shadows.
"I have seen the impact in my Senate district. In the South and West Bronx, I have spoken with residents who fear walking home from the subway at night," he said. "The criminals call it 'amigo shopping' and I see a link between increasing crime on the streets and the nasty rhetoric on television.
"Moreover, when you ask the pastors, the community leaders, the policeman, they will all tell you - these are not crimes in isolation, but rather they affect the community at large. It's time we took a common sense approach to helping all New Yorkers feel safe."