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NYC's Executive Order 41 & Confidentiality Protections

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NYC's Executive Order 41 & Confidentiality Protections

On September 17, 2003, Mayor Bloomberg issued a new confidentiality policy for New York City—Executive Order 41 (LINK TO PDF)—that protects immigrants from arbitrary or unnecessary collection and reporting of immigration status information when seeking city services or interacting with police.

Specifically, EO41 includes the following:

Limits on Law Enforcement Inquiry Into Immigration Status: EO41 prohibits police officers from asking about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, and other persons seeking assistance from police—with absolutely no exceptions.  More broadly, police officers are prohibited from asking about anyone’s immigration status, unless the police are investigating “illegal activity,” which was specifically defined so as not to include mere status as an undocumented immigrant.  (In effect, this means that police cannot stop and question someone on the street simply because they suspect the person is undocumented.)

Limits on Social Service Inquiry Into Immigration Status: EO41 prohibits city workers who administer public services, benefits, or programs from asking about immigration status, unless such information is necessary to determine eligibility, necessary for the provision of city services, or is required by law.  (Some programs, such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Family Health Plus, and cash assistance, have immigration-related eligibility requirements.)

Limits on Disclosure of Immigration Status and Other Confidential Information: EO41 prohibits city workers and police officers from sharing confidential information they have obtained (including immigration status, sexual orientation, status as a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, status as a crime witness, receipt of public assistance, and income tax records), unless they are investigating illegal activity other than undocumented immigration status, unless disclosure is required by law, or unless written permission is first obtained.

If a city worker or police officer asks someone about his or her immigration status, the person has the right not to answer the question, and may choose to inform the city worker or officer that EO41 prohibits unnecessary inquiries into immigration status.  Even in situations where a city worker or officer is permitted or required to ask about immigration status, the person does not have to answer the question.  He or she always can assert the right to remain silent (knowing, however, that this may affect his or her ability to apply for or receive a social service, benefit, or program, if having a certain immigration status is a requirement for eligibility).


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