New York's Contradictory Attitude Toward Migrants

Patroness of Immigrants gets slighted, but use the words "illegal alien" and you might have to pay

By Andrew R. Arthur on October 14, 2019

Two recent stories out of New York City show a certain level of dissonance on the part of the municipal government as it relates to immigration: One has to do with new guidance relating to the treatment of illegal aliens (a term that can get you a hefty fine), and the other has to do with the city's refusal to erect a statue to St. Frances Xavier (Mother) Cabrini, "the Patroness of Immigrants".

As my erstwhile (Democratic) colleague on the House Judiciary Committee, Nolan Rappaport, described the former action:

The NYC Commission on Human Rights (Commission) has announced new guidelines for New York's Human Rights Law that will make it easier for undocumented aliens to live and work in New York without being detected by immigration authorities.

The guidelines designate conduct that facilitates immigration enforcement or makes it harder for undocumented aliens to remain in New York as "unlawful discrimination," and the Human Rights Law has steep penalties to deter New Yorkers from doing these things.

Section 8-126 authorizes the Commission to fine a person up to $125,000 for engaging in an unlawful discriminatory act. If the act was willful, wanton or malicious, the fine can be up to $250,000.

The guidelines go too far.

For example, it could now be illegal to call someone an "illegal alien."

But the guidelines in fact go much further. They violate the constitutional rights of lawful New York residents in order to protect undocumented alien residents. What's more, making it easier for undocumented aliens to live and work in New York illegally is prohibited by a federal harboring provision that makes providing such assistance a criminal offense.

There is more. As Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation explains:

New York City makes it unlawful to refuse to provide housing to illegal aliens. It even has a provision on "associational discrimination" that makes it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment to a U.S. citizen that the landlord knows will have illegal aliens living in the apartment.

So if you are a human trafficker housing illegal aliens you've smuggled across the border in an apartment you're renting, don't worry. If the landlord finds out about it he will be barred from doing anything about it.

Both Rappaport and von Spakovsky missed my own favorite provision, found on page 12 of that 29-page document (with 144 footnotes): "Employers are encouraged to give notice to their employees when they know or suspect that [a worksite enforcement] audit or raid will occur so that employees have an opportunity to update any necessary documents and make other preparations." (Emphasis added.) What other preparations could the Commission possibly be referring to?

Hmmm ... let's think for a minute. The following might be helpful: "Employers can also potentially reduce the immediate disruption of unexpected immigration worksite enforcement by refusing ICE access to non-public facing areas if the agents do not produce a warrant signed by a judge." There is only one reason to deny ICE agents "access to non-public facing areas" during "unexpected immigration worksite enforcement": to prevent them from speaking to persons who have "failed to obtain legal status".

Of course, there is the expected introduction to this diktat:

Millions of immigrants have settled in New York City. They have built homes, communities, and businesses; they lead houses of worship, non-profit organizations, corporations, small businesses, City agencies, and educational institutions; and they continuously contribute — in immeasurable ways — to the fabric of this City.

Which brings me to Mother Cabrini. For those of you who are not up on your Roman Catholic saints, she founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1880 in Italy. As the website of the order explains:

She and her sisters wanted to be missionaries in China; she visited Rome to obtain an audience with Pope Leo XIII. The Pope told Frances to go "not to the East, but to the West" to New York rather than to China as she had expected. She was to help the thousands of Italian immigrants already in the United States.

In 1889, New York seemed to be filled with chaos and poverty, and into this new world stepped Mother Frances Cabrini and her sister companions. Cabrini organized catechism and education classes for the Italian immigrants and provided for the needs of the many orphans. She established schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds.

Plainly, New York was "filled with chaos and poverty" in 1889 because they had not invented the Procrustean bureaucrat yet, but it seems like they made do with a frail nun and her sisters nonetheless. And, she did okay, becoming the first U.S. citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church for her tireless efforts.

So when a New York City program solicited names for statutes to be commissioned to honor influential women as part of the "She Built New York" competition, Mother Cabrini was the leading vote-getter, receiving 219 nominations out of 2,000 total. As CBS New York explains: "However, a committee organized by first lady Chirlane McCray ultimately didn't choose her." The station continues:

The process was also overseen by the city's Cultural Affairs commissioner, Tom Finkelpearl.

When asked why the public [was] given an opportunity to nominate statues if some of those nominations, particularly the most popular ones, weren't going to make the list, Finkelpearl said, "We looked around the city. We need to be borough diversity. We're commissioning works of art from each borough and, again, it was never meant to be a vote. It was meant to look for good ideas."

Two side points: One, New York is likely the "City that Never Sleeps" because everyone is serving on a commission. Two, "borough diversity" is likely to be the next effort undertaken by the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

Likely reflecting the views of more than a few Gothamites, Ginger Bivona of Bensonhurst told CBS: "I feel that the Christian Catholic community is always put on the side and if she had the most votes then what's to question it? Let's go with what the people want."

The winners were Rep. Shirley Chisholm (Brooklyn), Billie Holiday (Queens), Elizabeth Jennings Graham (Manhattan), Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (Bronx), Katherine Walker (Staten Island), and Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Manhattan).

Each appears to be a credit to the city, groundbreakers, and deserving of the honor. The question becomes, though, if "only five out of New York City's 150 statues of historic figures depict women", and seven more are to honored, why not Mother Cabrini?

It is ironic that while one New York City commission is drafting 29 pages of guidelines to block enforcement of the immigration laws (some of which appear to trammel constitutional rights), another snubs a woman who gave her life to care for and lift up countless legal immigrants in their new home. Perhaps the Commission on Human Rights needs to huddle with the Cultural Affairs Commission (and the city's first lady) for a little while. After, they can work on borough diversity (Manhattan got three statues).

Had she harbored persons who had "failed to obtain legal status", or chained herself to the front of ICE headquarters, or burned I-9s in advance of a worksite enforcement "audit or raid", would that have pushed Mother Cabrini over the top to be number eight?

Mother Cabrini will get her due yet. The New York Post reports:

The Diocese of Brooklyn is adding a float featuring Mother Cabrini to the Columbus Day Parade — a jab at Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray for snubbing the Italian American icon and saint in a recent statue competition.

"We're a little upset that Mother Cabrini wasn't included for a statue dedication," the Diocese's Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello told The Post. "If the city won't honor Mother Cabrini, we will will honor her."

Good for them.

Topics: New York