Human Rights for New Citizens in NYC Detailed

Erik Posso, a 39-year-old Colombian, became a U.S. citizen on Monday. “This gives you the right to vote, allows for more flexibility when traveling,” he said. “It was an easy process; I did it myself. It took 8 or 9 months.” (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario)

Erik Posso, a 39-year-old Colombian, became a U.S. citizen on Oct. 19. “This gives you the right to vote, allows for more flexibility when traveling,” he said. “It was an easy process; I did it myself. It took 8 or 9 months.” (Photo by Gerardo Romo via El Diario)

On Monday, a smiling Erik Posso, 39, from Colombia, became a U.S. citizen. “This gives you the right to vote, allows for more flexibility when traveling,” he said. “It was an easy process; I did it myself. It took 8 or 9 months.”

Posso was one of 50 new citizens sworn in during a special session at the Eastern District Court in Brooklyn. During the event, the authorities also talked about the guarantees immigrants have in the U.S. and distributed a brochure written in eight languages. The information sheet detailed the efforts the City is making to protect immigrants, from employment and housing to domestic violence and gender identity.

“This is a great opportunity for New Yorkers to learn about their rights,” said Carmelyn Malalis, chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights. “Also, we want to reach more people through them. Human rights laws protect everyone, regardless of their status.”

Nearly 20 New York judges attended the ceremony, as well as government officials including New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services León Rodríguez. “You did not come here for the ‘streets paved with gold’ but for the streets paved with opportunity. You are our parents and our grandparents,” said Eastern District Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon, whose remarks were greeted with applause.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was scheduled to attend the ceremony but had to cancel due to a relative’s passing. She instead sent a message ‒ read by District Judge Dora Irizarry, who, like Sotomayor, is Latina ‒ in which she invited the new citizens to vote and to perform volunteer work. “I ask you not to forget your origins and your culture. This is vital for the country,” she wrote. “The diversity of the people of the United States is the country’s greatest wealth and the secret to its success.”

Everyone’s Rights

Commissioner Malalis pointed out that human rights apply to everyone, not only to citizens, and that they include the following guarantees, among others:

Employers cannot pay workers lower wages or no wage because of their immigration status.

Employers cannot harass or make fun of workers because of their nationality, religious beliefs or attire, accent, or immigration status.

Employers cannot punish workers for speaking their own language.

Employers cannot threaten workers with calling the police because of their immigration status.

Employers cannot refuse to hire someone because of their nationality, religious beliefs, attire or accent.

In addition, Malalis encouraged people to report any case of workplace or housing discrimination by calling 311.

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