Kaplan, Solages bill to stop immigrant blackmail passes state legislature

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A bill proposed by State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) and State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), pictured, that would make extorting one's immigration status illegal has passed the State Legislature. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

A bill that would make threats to reveal an individual’s immigration status illegal for the purpose of blackmail was passed by both the New York State Assembly and State Senate early this month, with the help of two representatives from the North Shore.

The bill was introduced by Assembly member Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), whose constituency includes Floral Park, and state Sen. Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills), whose district includes the Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas, the Roslyn and Manhasset areas, Williston Park, Albertson, and Garden City Park.

Solages and Kaplan’s act would amend laws on extortion and coercion to also include making threats to report a person’s immigration status or otherwise cause deportation proceedings to be brought against an individual.

“The threat of deportation is very serious to undocumented immigrants, which makes them particularly vulnerable to extortion or coercion,” Solages said in a statement. “Too often that vulnerability is exploited by unscrupulous actors. This legislation would protect these individuals and their families from having their immigration status used as leverage against them.”

In a statement, Kaplan said, “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.”

She went on to say, “By passing 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.”

Extortion and coercion involve compelling a person to turn over property, or to engage, or refrain from engaging, in other conduct by intimidation, including threatening to cause criminal charges to be instituted against them. The legislation amends the Penal Law definitions of “extortion” and “coercion” to also include making threats for such purposes as to cause deportation proceedings to be brought against an individual, thereby making it a criminal offense to coerce or extort an individual through threats of deportation.

The bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 48-14, following passage in the state Assembly where it succeeded by a vote of 106-41. It will now be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for consideration and should he sign the bill into law, it will take effect 30 days after enactment.

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