Bill Bans Discrimination On Basis Of Immigration Status

Bill S.6586-A-Liu/A.6328-A-Cruz would make it unlawful in the state of New York to discriminate on the basis of citizenship or immigration status in housing, employment, credit, and places of public accommodation. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms takes no position on the proposal to ban discrimination on the basis of citizenship. However, it should not be against the law for New Yorkers to take an unlawful act—in this case, the act of residing in the United States illegally—into account when making decisions about housing or credit.

In essence, the proposed legislation would require landlords, lenders, and other New Yorkers not only to turn a blind eye to another person’s unlawful conduct, but also to share in the risks and burdens created by that conduct. If this bill should become law, the following scenario could result: A landlady advertises a vacancy in her four-unit apartment building in Flushing. An acquaintance of hers submits a rental application. Because she knows the applicant, the landlady knows that the applicant resides in the United States illegally. Furthermore, she has heard rumors that immigration authorities have been pursuing the applicant. The landlady is concerned that if she rents the apartment to the applicant, the applicant could be detained or deported at any time and she could be left with an unwanted vacancy in her apartment building. However, she knows that if she declines to rent the apartment to the applicant, she could be held liable for discrimination on the basis of immigration status. The landlady is left to choose between doing what she believes is right (renting to an applicant who is a lawful U.S. resident) and doing what the law requires (exposing herself and her family to risk by renting to an illegal immigrant).

Here is another scenario that could result from the passage of this bill: During a mortgage application process, a Syracuse lender becomes aware that an applicant resides in the United States unlawfully. Understandably, the lender is concerned that the applicant’s uncertain immigration status makes her a high-risk applicant; if the applicant is detained or deported, the likelihood that she would be unable to pay her mortgage would increase substantially. In this scenario, this bill would require the lender to choose between making a good business decision based on the available information and ignoring the available information to avoid running afoul of state antidiscrimination law.

The scenarios laid out above are unfair and unacceptable. New York correctly bans discrimination based on criteria like race, color, and national origin. The state bans discrimination based on these criteria based on the belief that it is unjust and un-American to subject a person to discrimination based upon a characteristic over which he has no control, and which has no bearing on his ability to fulfill his responsibilities. Immigration status, however, is a different matter. Except in circumstances where a person has been brought to the United States against her will or has been brought to the United States during childhood, a person who resides in the U.S. unlawfully has chosen to do so.  The principles here are simple: New York law should not require anyone to act against their own best interests by failing to consider another person’s unlawful conduct when making decisions in areas like housing and credit. Also, New York law should not protect anyone from discrimination based upon that person’s commission of an unlawful act.

Accordingly, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms urges lawmakers to vote against Bill S.6586-A-Liu/A.6328-A-Cruz.