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Bill would penalize employers who report workers' immigration status

ALBANY — A new bill that has picked up key support in the State Legislature would make it a misdemeanor for an employer to report the “suspected citizenship or immigration status” of an employee to federal authorities.

The bill would make threatening to report or actually reporting on the suspected immigration status of an employee or a member of the employee’s family a Class B misdemeanor. Such action would be considered a type of retaliation against an employee. Retaliation already is a violation of labor law.

 It originally was sponsored by Assemb. Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) and had no official Senate support until Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), chairwoman of the Labor Committee, formally submitted the bill Wednesday.

In a memo filed with the bill, Crespo and Ramos said it would specifically outlaw “contacting or threatening to contact United States immigration authorities or otherwise reporting or threatening to report the suspected citizenship or immigration status of an employee or an employee's family or household member to a federal, state or local agency.”

Violation of the measure could result in a sentence of three months in jail and a $20,000 fine. The bill initially was proposed by Attorney General Letitia James after her officials fielded complaints from workers including a complaint aimed at Republican President Donald Trump.

Ramos and Crespo said the bill will address “predatory employers” who commit wage theft and sexual harassment and employers who seek to cover up safety hazards. The bill applies to threats or actual reporting of workers and their relatives to federal immigration authorities after the employees were hired, which should include a check on immigration status at the hiring.

The bill made it through the Assembly labor and codes committees earlier this year and could be brought to the floor in that house before the end of the scheduled legislative session June 19. Republicans oppose the measure.

“Not a day goes by without Senate Democrats putting the needs of illegal immigrants ahead of what's best for the hardworking taxpayers and citizens they represent in Albany,” Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), said. Reif referred to other Democratic measures to provide college aid for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children without proper documents, and to permit immigrants who are  in the country illegally to obtain  driver's licenses.

“When will it end?” Reif said.

James previously said the need for the bill arises from a case in which an employee at one of Trump’s golf courses claimed she was threatened with deportation if she criticized Trump. James said that complaint was similar to numerous reports of threats to workers in New York State.

“This legislation will represent a critical step toward protecting some of our most vulnerable workers by ensuring that they are not silenced or punished by threats related to their immigration status,” James said when she announced her proposal. “New York State was built by immigrants and it has always stood proudly as a beacon of hope and opportunity no matter where you were born.”

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