In a significant move amid the ongoing surge of asylum-seekers, the New York City Council has given the green light to a proposal introducing an immigrant "bill of rights." Passed on Thursday by the Democratic-controlled Council with a 43-8 vote, the measure mandates city agencies to create and publish a comprehensive workers’ bill of rights. This bill will encompass essential information on rights and protections under federal, state, and local laws applicable to all workers in the city, irrespective of their immigration status.
The proposal, which was not met with opposition from New York City Mayor Eric Adams, is seen as a crucial step in empowering immigrant workers, especially in light of the recent influx of asylum-seekers. City Councillor Shahana Hanif, the primary sponsor of the bill, emphasized its importance, stating that it enables immigrant workers to understand their rights fully, ensuring they receive their rightful earnings and can adequately support themselves and their families. There are labour rules in place to safeguard all of our workers, both recent immigrants and more seasoned ones; the Bill of Rights will be extremely helpful in ensuring they're being watched," she said in a statement.
Under the proposed legislation, employers would be mandated to provide newly hired employees with a copy of the bill of rights once it is formulated. Additionally, the document must be prominently displayed in the workplace, in both English and other languages, to increase accessibility. Violators of this requirement could face fines of up to $500 after an initial warning.
New York City finds itself grappling with the challenges posed by more than 130,000 migrants who have arrived over the past year, reflecting a surge in immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border reaching unprecedented levels. Currently, the city is responsible for the well-being of over 64,000 migrants, who are accommodated in 200 emergency shelters located in hotels and large encampments.
The city, adhering to New York's right-to-shelter law, is obligated to provide emergency housing to anyone who requests it, regardless of their immigration status. In response to the ongoing crisis, the city has spent nearly $2 billion on caring for asylum-seekers, as revealed in newly released data. Mayor Adams, expressing his concerns, has cautioned that the migrant crisis could potentially "destroy New York City" unless additional funding and resources are provided by the state and federal governments.
The passing of the immigrant bill of rights signifies a proactive step taken by New York City in addressing the complex challenges arising from the surge in asylum-seekers. It demonstrates the city's commitment to upholding the rights of all workers, regardless of their origin, while also navigating the pressing issues associated with the ongoing immigration influx.