Article from Reason by Robby Soave.

Last week, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights declared that using the term “illegal alien” pejoratively to describe an undocumented person violates laws designed to protect employees and tenants from discrimination, and could result in fines of up to $250,000. But the city’s interpretation of the law is so broad that it may very well be unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Perceived immigration status has long been a protected category under the New York City Human Rights Law, and the commission has now issued guidance that “use of the term ‘illegal alien,’ among others, when used with intent to demean, humiliate, or harass a person, is illegal under the law.”

It’s important to note that this guidance does not affect all kinds of speech: The law covers workplace harassment, tenants’ rights, and public accommodation. Merely calling someone an illegal alien on the street, or threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on them, would not be illegal.

The courts have, of course, held that anti-discrimination ordinances can survive scrutiny, even if they appear to limit the free speech rights of employers and landlords. But NYC is going further here. The 30-page guidance notes, for instance, that “the severity or pervasiveness of the harassment is only relevant to damages. Even an employer’s single comment made in circumstances where that comment would signal discriminatory views about one’s immigration status or national origin may be enough to constitute harassment.”

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 00:05, 29 August 2014 (UTC) (Broadway Crowds) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons