Oct. 15, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A new state law will soon make it illegal to threaten to report someone to ICE as a form of blackmail.
The legislation, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last week, classifies such threats as extortion or coercion under New York law and therefore a crime.
“New York is built on the hard work and determination of generations of immigrants, and we need to support people who are trying to build better lives for themselves and their families,” Hochul said in a statement. “This legislation will protect New Yorkers from bad actors who use extortion or coercion due to their immigration status, and make our state safer against vile threats and intimidation.”
The legislation expands existing state law to include threats to report someone’s immigration status and threats of deportation in the legal definitions of extortion and coercion. Previously, such threats were only crimes in cases of labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
The new law gives the court power to prosecute individuals who use a person’s immigration status as blackmail, even when unrelated to labor or sex trafficking.
“For an undocumented immigrant who fled danger in their home country, being reported to ICE can be a death sentence, yet sadly, far too many people are willing to take advantage of our more vulnerable neighbors by threatening to reveal their immigration status in order to exploit them in some way,” the bill’s sponsor Sen. Anna Kaplan said.
“By enacting this long-overdue measure, we’re updating the laws on extortion and coercion to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers aren’t left vulnerable to such vile threats.”
Similar measures have been enacted in other states such as California, Colorado, Maryland and Virginia.
The legislation, introduced by Kaplan and Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, passed both the Senate and Assembly in June. It passed the Senate by a vote of 48 to 14 in June, and the Assembly by a vote of 106 to 41.
Hochul signed the bill on Oct. 9. The new law goes into effect 30 days after her signing.
“This legislation breaks new ground in New York’s ongoing efforts to protect undocumented immigrants, who can be some of our state’s most vulnerable residents,” Solages said in a statement. “Arbitrary threats of deportation are extremely harmful to New Yorkers trying to feed their families and give their children a better life, and we stand with them, today and always.”