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.
You forgot to mention that Idaho has already been tainted by enough Californians that we don’t need anymore.
Im all for not making land lords do the job of the INS but to prohibit them from checking on the immigration status of people occupying their property is insane...
Arnie the Rino.
With the way things are going, soon most all the illegal aliens will be in illegal friendly California. Look at the bright side, at least if you don’t happen to live there.
“The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, also prohibits landlords from collecting that information independently.”
Clearly stated above.
Forever is a long time.
It is far more business friendly that the Peoples' Republik of Kalifornia. That is why Buck Knives left Kalifornia for Post Falls years ago.
Are landlords in California allowed to demand photo ID and run credit checks? The prospect would probably deter a lot of illegals.
"The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, also prohibits landlords from collecting that information independently."
Yes, landlords in Kalifornia are allowed to inquire and know who they are renting their property to...until now.
I doubt that would hold up in a court of law. As long as the questions are not based on religion or race there is nothing even this law that can prohibit you from asking what you want. A good example is they cannot prohibit you from doing a credit check. Any smart owner could use that alone to disqualify a potential tenant. No rental history with references equals no rental for you bozo.
I left 18 months ago. Lived there 30 years.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Missed that part.
Sounds like something Bush would do. I guess Arnold is a real Republican.
Well that is a shame because I understand it was a nice place at one time. Then again, I will never get to see Rhodesia and I understand from my friends it was a rather remarkable place as well. Too bad neither one exists any more. Funny thing is they were both destroyed pretty much the same way.
“Well that is a shame because I understand it was a nice place at one time”
It was a GREAT place to live when I moved there in 1976.
Conservative, and the people were nice. Now it is a hellhole, and nobody trusts anyone!!