Things That Matter

A New York City Landlord Is Facing A $17K Fine After Threatening To Call ICE On Tenant

We’ve all heard stories of shady landlords doing crazy things to their tenants. Whether it’s raising rent without notice or using discriminatory practices to try to kick out a resident. But one landlord in New York City took it up a notch when she threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on her tenant if she didn’t pay overdue rent. An administrative judge in New York City ruled this month that the landlord should pay a $5,000 fine and $12,000 in damages for threatening to call ICE. 

The tenant, Holly Ondaan, is from Guyana with European Union citizenship and was undocumented when her former landlord, Dianna Lysius, threatened to call immigration officials on her. Now, Lysius is facing legal trouble and a hefty fine after a New York City judge called her actions a “human rights violation.” 

According to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the judges decision is thought to be the first housing case in the country in which an individual was fined for threatening to call immigration authorities.

The situation began back in October 2017 when Ondaan, who lived on the Queens property since 2011, admittedly stopped paying rent due to financial difficulties in her life at the time. Shortly after, she began to receive texts from Lysius about the missing money that would lead to her falling behind in mortgage payments and eventually having to sell the property in foreclosure. In his ruling, Judge John B. Spooner said that Lysius’s “dire financial circumstances likely played a significant part in motivating her hostile messages.”

That’s when things started getting hostile. In January 2018, Lysius began eviction proceedings against Ondaan and would write in a text message that she would call ICE if she didn’t pay rent that same day. According to the judges report, some of the texts included:

“It was fun and games when you calling DOB now it’s fun and games calling immigration 12 times day. They can deport you.”

After a three months of discriminatory texts, New York’s Commission on Human Rights sent Lysius a cease-and-desist letter requesting that she stop harassing her tenant. The commission said that Lysius’s actions were discriminatory and unlawful. 

Lysius to this point has denied all the accusations of harassment towards her former tenant. While she has been fined, there are still more legal steps that must happen before it goes into effect.

The case is a first when it comes to a landlord using immigration services to threaten a tenant. The commission also saw it as a case setting precedent  and classified Lysius’s actions as discrimination under New York City’s human-rights law. 

“It sets important case precedent for the interpretation of our Human Rights Law to include the weaponization of ICE to intimidate or harass someone in housing as a violation,” Sapna V. Raj, deputy commissioner for the law enforcement bureau of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, told CNN. “We will not allow our city’s most vulnerable to be further marginalized out of fear for their safety in their own homes. Immigration status, citizenship, and national origin (perceived or actual) are protected categories under our law, and we will continue to fight to ensure those protections are enforced to the fullest extent.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lysius said she never send the texts and emails to her former tenant and as of now, she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. “Everything in that report is false,” Lysius said.

Ondaan has admitted that she wasn’t authorized to be in the U.S. at the time when Lysius threats began. She would obtain her green card in July 2018, according to the judges ruling. She would moved out of the property in October 2018, owing $14,400 in back rent. A court ruled that Ondaan would have to pay $6,895 of the past rent. 

Spooner’s decision won’t take effect before both parties have time to submit comments and the city human rights commission issues a final decision, according to CNN. Lysius can then file her appeal.

READ: ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

ICE Is Arresting And Deporting Undocumented Marchers Who Attend Black Lives Matter Protests

Things That Matter

ICE Is Arresting And Deporting Undocumented Marchers Who Attend Black Lives Matter Protests

@JesusOhh_ / Twitter

Since the death of George Floyd reverberated across the world, millions of Americans have taken to the streets to demand justice and racial equality. Along with them have been other communities who are so often victimized by police – including undocumented residents.

Under the current immigration system, immigrants are subject to daily intimidation, violence, and abuse by the authorities – at the border, in their neighbourhoods, and at detention facilities. 

As the national outcry against police brutality and racial injustice intensify, and people continue to take to the streets – it’s important to stay alert and keep yourself and your family safe as ICE is looking for immigrants at BLM protests across the country.

Authorities have invited ICE agents to infiltrate Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S.

From New York to Arizona, ICE agents have actively been patrolling BLM protests, looking to arrest and deport undocumented participants.

In New York City, ICE agents violently tackled and detained a protester. In Arizona, ICE collaborated with the local police to detain immigrants who were mistakenly arrested near a protest site and have set in motion their deportation proceedings.

The presence of ICE agents at protests and their abuse of both immigrants and U.S. citizens serve as a reminder that the American immigration mechanism is yet another manifestation of systemic racism and police brutality. 

Even U.S. citizens who appear Latino are at risk of dangerous interactions with ICE.

Credit: Juan Delgado / Getty Images

Just last week, a U.S. citizen from Puerto Rico was marching in New York at a BLM protest, when he was jumped by five ICE agents. He was violently pushed to the ground, held at gunpoint, and handcuffed and searched without explanation. In a later statement, ICE declared that the man was suspected of holding a firearm, and that no arrest was made once no weapon was found. The man, who is a military veteran, had sustained several bruises from the incident and preferred not to disclose his identity. 

“It’s just really concerning to see ICE out on the street, grabbing somebody who’s peacefully protesting before the curfew, who was doing absolutely nothing wrong,” said Terry Lawson, a supervising policy attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project, in an interview for NBC News.

The migrant advocacy community has tried its best to keep people aware of the risk of joining in protests.

Credit: @JesusOhh_ / Twitter

As protests spread across the country following George Floyd’s death in late May, so did warnings to undocumented immigrants thinking about joining the demonstrations.

Messages on social media warned that ICE officers were on the ground: “ICE is at the protest, if you’re undocumented leave!” one person tweeted.

“Please if you’re of undocumented status or have DACA PLEASE PRIORITIZE YOUR SAFETY FIRST! ICE is taking advantage,” read another tweet.

“CBP and ICE agents are at protests across the country. They have made claims to the media they aren’t going to arrest people, but we know they are notorious liars,” tweeted the advocacy group United We Dream.

There were soon online guides with resources on what undocumented people could do to stay safe, because an arrest at a protest has the potential to end in deportation.

Police working with ICE is nothing new – but the fact that they were working at BLM protests put many on edge.

Credit: Ross Franklin / Getty Images

In Arizona, police and ICE have worked closely together for decades. In fact, many protesters in Phoenix last week not only demanded an end to police brutality but also urged the Phoenix Police Department to end its collaboration with ICE. Similar protests have taken place in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

These co-policing techniques are turning any interaction with the cops into a potential crisis for undocumented immigrants and their families.

According to US Customs and Border Protection, the agency has been asked to deploy resources to “several states undertaking various operational support roles at the request of fellow law enforcement agencies.” The CBP agents were sent to “confront the lawless actions of rioters,” not to carry out an immigration enforcement mission.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Because Words Matter: NYC Votes To Ban The Words ‘Alien’ And ‘Illegal Immigrant’ From All Official Documents

Things That Matter

Because Words Matter: NYC Votes To Ban The Words ‘Alien’ And ‘Illegal Immigrant’ From All Official Documents

David Zalubowski / Getty

When you hear the word’s ‘alien’ or ‘illegal immigrant’ used to describe a person, what goes through your mind? For many, these terms have been used to dehumanize and isolate migrant communities. Like so many other pejoratives used against minority communities, often times the intent is to create division.

We all recognize that words matter. So this small victory in New York City, where they’ve decided to ban the terms from all official documents is a huge step forward for the city’s migrant communities.

New York just became the largest city in the U.S. to ban the official use of the terms.

The New York City Council has voted to ban city officials and its law enforcement department from using the terms ‘alien’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ to refer to undocumented migrants in all official city documents.

In a 46-4 vote in favor of the bill on Thursday, the Council passed the measure sponsored by Queens Councilmember Francisco Moya.

“These words are outdated and loaded words used to dehumanize the people they describe. It’s time to retire them,” Council Member Francisco Moya said. The words will be prohibited from use in local laws, rules and documents and replaced with the term ‘noncitizen.’

Words matter,” Moya added. “The language we choose to use has power and consequences. It’s time we as a city use our language to acknowledge people as people rather than to dehumanize them and divide us.”

The words have long been used to sow division so here’s why it’s such an important move.

Credit: David Zalubowski / Getty

The words and language we use determines the nature of a conversation. Terms like ‘alien’ and ‘illegal’, which so many of us grew up hearing on the radio and on TV, have an isolating, disorientating, dehumanizing effect and can really impact one’s identity.

New York isn’t the only place in the country working to undo the decisive rhetoric. Across the country, politicians and immigration activists are taking aim at the rhetoric etched into official documents.

At the national level, United States Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, introduced a bill in July that would replace “alien” and “illegal alien” with “foreign national” and “undocumented foreign national” in one of the country’s main immigration laws.

The vote comes after the NY state Human Rights Commission prohibited their use to demean someone.

Credit: New York City Council / Flickr

In late 2019, the New York Commission on Human Rights created a new rule that prohibited the use of the terms ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegals’ with the “intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person.”

The guidance also made it illegal to harass or discriminate against “someone for their use of another language or their limited English proficiency, and threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ) on a person based on a discriminatory motive.”

The vote was nearly unanimous, however four council members voted no on the rule change.

The new rule had bipartisan, wide-ranking support on the city council and passed with a vote of 46-4. However, four council members did vote no on the measure –Robert Holden of Queens, Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn, and Staten Island lawmakers Joseph Borelli and Steven Matteo.

Holden told the New York Post the Council was “overstepping our bounds here prohibiting certain terms.”

“It’s like the speech police is out again,” he said. “’Alien’ is a term used for someone who is from another area, another land. That’s a term used in Congress and in the government.”

But it’s worth noting that other pejorative terms have been removed from government documents as people better understood the hurtful connotations.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com