Lady Liberty has been left crying again. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) recently released a new guidance banning the phrase “illegal alien” in certain business situations.
The guidance put out by the NYCCHR states that, “The use of the terms ‘illegal alien’ and ‘illegals,’ with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons in the workplace, amounts to unlawful discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law.” This guidance applies to business entities involved in employment, housing and public accommodations. People working in those categories are barred from, “taking an adverse action against an individual or treating an individual less well than another due to stereotypes or assumptions related to immigration status or national origin.”
USA Today reported that, “Those found in violation of the law can be fined up to $250,000.”
Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs published a statement touting the change, according to The Hill. “We are proud to have worked with the NYC Commission on Human Rights to produce and release this important guidance as we combat the federal government’s rhetoric of fear and xenophobic policies that have threatened the health and well-being of immigrant communities.”
Ironically, the term ‘illegal alien’ is the legal term used to describe those unlawfully present in the United States throughout the federal code. For example, 8 U.S. Code § 1325 describes improper entry by illegal aliens. “Any alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States… shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined.” Indeed, The Hill acknowledged that, “The Department of Homeland Security defines ‘alien’ as ‘any person not a citizen or national of the United States.’”
Of course, no racially motivated attack on any person should be condoned. But there are serious concerns for the freedom of speech intertwined with this new regulation.
Numerous questions arise from this move by the NYCCHR. First, does this new law conflict with the First Amendment? The Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.”
The Supreme Court held in NIFLA v Becerra that, “Content-based regulations ‘target speech based on its communicative content.’ As a general matter, such laws ‘are presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that they are narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.’ This stringent standard reflects the fundamental principle that governments have ‘no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter or its content.’” This seems to clearly indicate that the new guidance is presumptively unconstitutional. As the court said, “The people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.”
Another question that will have to be answered is, how offensive is offensive and who gets to decide what incident was intended to be demeaning or humiliating? Doesn’t this empower any person who was called an ‘illegal alien’ in any context the ability to claim they were ‘offended’ by such remarks?
Speech shouldn’t be regulated according to someone else’s subjective feelings.
One of the biggest questions this raises is, if New York City is seeking to end demeaning, humiliating or offensive speech, why haven’t they made it illegal to call a Christian who believes in traditional marriage a ‘homophobe?’ Or why not make it illegal to call a Jewish man who believes that biological sex is God-given and immutable a ‘bigot?’ In its bid to make New York City more tolerant, it seems city officials only care about racial diversity, not ideological or religious diversity.
A couple years back, the NYCCHR also passed a regulation that required employers, landlords and all business professionals to use an employee’s or customer’s preferred name and pronoun despite their biological anatomy. According to The Washington Post, “This is the government as sovereign, threatening ‘civil penalties up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct’ if people don’t speak the way the government tells them to speak.” The absurdity of this is amplified when you consider New York City is mandating speech contrary to biology and facts. If you call biological males who identify as women ‘men,’ you’ll be censured, fined and financially destroyed.
New York City has also recently come under fire for censoring the speech of Dr. Dovid Schwartz, a Jewish counselor who helps patients with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender identity issues. The city ordinance, “made it illegal for a psychotherapist or counselor to work with patients to address unwanted same-sex attractions or confusion over gender identity.” Thankfully, after Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit, the city repealed the law. The Daily Citizen covered that story here.
In his dystopian novel Animal Farm, George Orwell examines the problems that occur when the government has supreme authority. He writes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” That seems to be the strategy the NYCCHR has taken here. They desire diversity, but only protect the diversity of some and not others. In a Republic, the right to speak freely is essential to liberty. When the government starts deciding what speech is allowed, all of us are equal, but some are more equal than others.