Skip to comments.Law puts renters' status off-limits
Posted on 10/12/2007 10:12:06 AM PDT by South40
SACRAMENTO California has become the first state in the nation to prohibit local governments from forcing landlords to check the immigration status of tenants.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed landmark legislation that was drafted as a direct response to an Escondido ordinance quickly abandoned that would have required landlords to prove their tenants were legal residents. We need to be assured that landlords cannot be compelled by local government to compile dossiers and become de facto immigration police, said Ron Kingston, who helped craft the state legislation on behalf of the Apartment Association of Southern California Cities.
Under the measure, cities and counties cannot pass laws requiring landlords to collect any information about the residency status of tenants or applicants. The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, also prohibits landlords from collecting that information independently.
The legislation was backed by an unusual alliance of business groups, immigrant rights activists and civil libertarians.
Local officials in California and across the nation have expressed frustration over the federal government's inability to control the flow of illegal immigrants. Some cities, like Escondido, have attempted to take matters into their own hands.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Francisco Castillo said the governor understands the emotions but still believes that local and state governments should not be forced to assume the responsibility of the federal government.
Assemblyman Charles Calderon, who carried Assembly Bill 976, said the governor's support will help soothe some hard feelings among Latinos, given Schwarzenegger's position on issues such as support for extending the border fence and opposing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
He signed it for all the right reasons, but it raises his standing significantly, said Calderon, a Whittier Democrat. It gives him a shield if he has to veto some of the other controversial bills. It's a big plus for him.
Some Escondido officials criticized the governor and lawmakers who approved the bill.
I think sometimes legislators sit around trying to figure out what they can do to win political bonus points, said Marie Waldron, the member of the Escondido City Council who proposed the ordinance last year.
I guess if they had to pass a law saying we can't do it, that means we were doing something legal originally, Waldron said.
Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler, who opposed the city's ordinance, said Congress must step in.
Just like I thought the city of Escondido can't successfully be involved in immigration enforcement or immigration laws, I don't think the state of California can, either, Pfeiler said. It really is a federal issue. The federal government needs to solve these issues.
In Escondido, where Latinos make up 42 percent of the residents, the City Council adopted an ordinance in October 2006 forcing landlords to prove the legal status of tenants and applicants. Undocumented tenants would have been evicted within 10 business days. Landlords who did not comply would have faced fines and suspension of their business licenses.
Escondido withdrew its ordinance in December under legal pressure from landlords and immigrant activists. Federal Judge John A. Houston had issued a temporary restraining order against Escondido, saying the city was trying to step into the shoes of the state and federal government.
Similar local laws have been enacted in other states, but most have been challenged as an unconstitutional invasion into federal jurisdiction.
In one closely watched case, a federal court in Pennsylvania struck down several attempts by the city of Hazelton to impose checks for legal residency.
Whatever frustrations officials of the city of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system in the U.S. prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme, the court ruled July 26.
Assemblyman Calderon said he believes the law will encourage other states to follow California's lead.
This legislation will be a bellwether for the rest of the country, he predicted.
In California, landlords feared being punished by local ordinances that could, in turn, expose them to costly lawsuits from renters and their advocates, said Kingston, who represents the apartment owners association.
Even though Escondido withdrew its ordinance, Kingston said, the state had to step in.
There was clear evidence landlords in the surrounding region were facing panic, Kingston said. They felt their city was next. They needed immediate clarity.
A ballot measure similar to the Escondido ordinance was proposed in San Bernardino County, but it failed to advance very far.
California lawmakers approved the law along party lines. No Republicans voted for the measure.
Landlords were joined by immigrant activists, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Property owners and prospective tenants can rest easier today, David Blair-Loy of the San Diego chapter of the ACLU, said in a statement praising the governor's action.
In an earlier letter of support, MALDEF's Francisco Estrada said the legislation also would help reduce anti-immigrant hysteria created by local efforts to track residency status.
But Schwarzenegger's veto was criticized in anti-illegal-immigration circles.
He violated local-control principles and excuses people who break the law, said Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly, a statewide grass-roots group.
Escondido Councilman Sam Abed, who supported the city's ordinance, said: It's unfair for a sovereign country to sit there as millions and millions of illegal immigrants come to the USA without a background check . . . and not being able to be asked a question (about legal residency). It's just unbelievable.
To any sane people left in CA, get out while you can.
California being lost is a foregone conclusion.
Working on it. I will be retiring soon and relocating to property I own in Idaho.
I’ll send the Governator all cockroaches that wind up in my apartment thanks to these illegal dirtbags cramming 15 people in an apartment in my building.
So what has this law accomplished?
Free Republic will be operated from the other side of the border fence if we do not do something to help Califa . I tried boycotting Califa products , but I got hungry after about an hour . Think , somebody ,think !
I wonder what the state could say if the landlords did it all on their own? Not that many would mind you, but it certainly would be away around the stupid law for those that realy cared
I voted for Tom McClintock!
I’ve spent months at a time in Idaho. I’ve owned the property since 1978. I know Idaho. I also know my neighbors and they would welcome another conservative in a heartbeat.
Mexifornia is forever lost. Leave while you still can.
Of course you are right , but keep it quiet . Tell people of your land in New Mexico , and Colorado . I will send ammo and potatoes if you change your mind and want to do the Alamo stand .
I don’t think the law stops you from checking, it just makes it so the town your property is in can’t make such checks mandatory. It’s a really weird looking law.
Arnold Kennedy-Schriber-Schwartzenliberal strikes again!
You mean Mexifornia, don’t you?
If states and municipalities will not obey the law, why should I obey the law - - why should anyone obey the law?
My C.O. from the Guard lives in Idaho. He loves it. Business taxes a bit high though.
I’ve been saying that for awhile.
WHY SHOULD ANY OF THE REST OF US BOTHER TO FOLLOW ANY LAW?????