Letitia James addresses the Ellis Island audience at the Jan. 1 inauguration ceremony. (Photo: David Handschuh/NYLJ)

New York Attorney General Letitia James is asking state lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it illegal for employers to retaliate against an undocumented worker by contacting federal immigration officers about their immigration status.

The bill is in reaction to reports that an employee at one of President Donald Trump’s properties was threatened with exposing her status as an undocumented immigrant if she made complaints about her supervisors, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

“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,” James said. “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.”

It’s the first bill James has proposed since she took office as the state’s top attorney last month. It’s likely to be introduced in the Legislature at some point over the next two weeks once sponsors for the bill are determined.

According to bill text provided by the Attorney General’s Office, the legislation would add a section to the New York Labor Law to clarify that it would be considered unlawful retaliation for an employer to contact or threaten to contact federal immigration officers about the immigration status of an employee of their family member.

That part of the labor law, Section 215, allows the state Department of Labor to refer employers who violate the statute to prosecutors, who could charge them with a Class B misdemeanor. That would carry up to three months in jail at the discretion of a judge.

The state would also be able to impose a fine on the employer from $1,000 to $20,000 depending on the nature of the complaint and any history of past violations. The agency could also order the employer to pay damages to the employee.

The bill, if passed, would become law three months after it’s approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

James has also asked lawmakers to enact additional pieces of legislation proposed by other elected officials before she took office.

The Reproductive Health Act, for example, passed the Legislature and was signed by Cuomo in January. The bill, which James supported, codified the abortion protections under Roe v. Wade into state law so they would exist if a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court reversed the landmark decision.

Other bills pushed by James haven’t been as successful as of yet. She has asked lawmakers to pass a bill, currently sponsored by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Nassau, that would allow state prosecutors to bring charges against individuals pardoned by the president of federal crimes based on the same set of facts.

The idea would be to allow state prosecutors to bring a case against someone like former Trump Campaign chairman Paul Manafort in the event that the president had chosen to pardon him before his trial. That’s currently not allowed in New York.

Kaminsky said he’s still working out the details of the legislation with the State Assembly, where it’s sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn. Its chances of passing are more likely this year with Democrats in control of both houses of the Legislature. Republicans, who previously controlled the state Senate, blocked the bill from coming up for a vote when it was introduced last year.

The legislative session is scheduled to end in June.


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