ASTORIA — Immigration status should be a protected class under the state's anti-discrimination laws, a Queens politician said.
Doing so would protect people against discrimination in housing, employment and other areas based on their status and would give victims of hate crimes who are targeted for their status the option of taking legal action in civil court against their assailants.
Though the state's anti-discrimination laws currently protect residents on the basis of national origin, Gianaris, who represents Astoria in the State Senate, says his bill would broaden the definition.
It would extend protection to immigrants as a whole, not limit it specifically to where they come from.
"Despite current protections in law, including protections against discrimination on the basis of national origin, there are no protections against discrimination on the basis of a person's
immigration status," the bill states.
New York City already offers stronger protections than the state, with its human rights law outlawing discrimination based on "Alienage or Citizenship Status."
Gianaris cites a number of recent bias incidents where discrimination was based not just on the victim's specific nationality but stemmed from anti-immigrant sentiment in general.
In one case, in November 2016, an Uber driver in Long Island City captured video of another driver yelling discriminating remarks at him through a car window. The video went viral.
"You're a loser, you're not even from here," the man in the video yells. "Trump is president, a--hole, so you can kiss your f--king visa goodbye, scumbag."
Gianaris said his bill would send a message to immigrants to let them know "they are welcome here."
"This seems to me like something that should have already been ingrained in law," he said.
"We've seen an increase in incidents against immigrants in this part of Queens alone. The results of the election seem to have spurred on a lot more anti-immigrant [sentiment]."