BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration joined elected officials, community activists and residents for a “day of action” that kicked off in Jackson Heights on Wednesday following an incident during which a Queens landlord demanded that tenants provide their immigration status.
Residents of 95-36 42nd Ave.—located at Junction Boulevard in Corona—received a letter from the building’s management office last week demanding that they bring a photo ID, Social Security card, proof of employment and a piece of identification regarding their status in the United States, such as a green card or passport, to the building’s management office.
The city’s Commission on Human Rights sent a cease-and-desist letter to Jaideep Reddy, the Corona building’s owner. The commission has the authority to fine landlords who engage in discriminatory practices up to $250,000 for violations.
Representatives from the mayor’s office joined community leaders on Wednesday morning at Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza to kick off the “day of action.” Immigration-advocacy group Woodside on the Move marched into the event chanting, “Aquí estamos y no nos vamos”—which translates to “Here we are and we are not going away.”
“The NYC Human Rights Law makes it illegal to discriminate or harass anyone in New York City based on immigration status and national origin,” said Hollis V. Pfitsch, the deputy commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “Protecting our city’s most vulnerable, especially immigrant communities affected by xenophobic rhetoric at the national level, is a priority for the commission.”
The “day of action” provided information to the borough’s immigrant community on their legal protections against housing discrimination based on immigration status and how to report discrimination or retaliation by landlords.
In New York City, it is illegal for landlords to threaten to report tenants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); require tenants to provide proof of citizenship or documentation detailing their immigration status; retaliate against tenants who report discriminatory behavior; or refuse to rent or lease housing, make repairs or provide services due to immigration status.
However, the commission reported that—in the past two years—the number of investigations into discrimination based on immigration status has doubled. The commission is currently investigating 291 cases of discrimination based on immigration status, of which 89 cases involved housing-related issues.
“There are now more landlords using this tactic to scare the tenants away and to make them leave their apartments,” said Woodside on the Move organizer Ivan Contreras. “But I would like to thank those tenants from those buildings who have the courage to seek our organization and to look for help. This is an act that we are not going to tolerate and we’re going to tell those tenants that this is not going to be a trend. We’re going to stop this.”
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) both said that they consider pressuring immigrants to provide their immigration status to be an act of bullying and vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the immigrant communities they represent.
As part of the “day of action,” fliers regarding housing rights were distributed throughout the city’s subway system in multiple languages.