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A law in California makes it illegal for landlords, or their agents, to ask tenants, prospective tenants, or occupants, their immigration status. Former Assemblyman Charles Calderon, a Democrat from Montebello, introduced the law AB 976. The law also prohibits cities and counties from enacting any law, ordinance or regulation that compels landlords to inquire into the immigration status of tenants or to refuse to rent to tenants based on their immigration or citizenship status. California has more immigrants than any other state and an elevated percentage of them are undocumented.
Former Assemblyman Calderon introduced the law because several California cities had attempted to pass laws requiring landlords to determine the immigration status of their tenants and to refuse to rent to undocumented immigrants. These cities had said that these laws were necessary because undocumented immigrants “cause crime and overcrowding.” The city of Escondido passed an ordinance that prohibited landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. Civil Rights organizations filed a lawsuit asserting that the anti-immigrant rental laws are unconstitutional and that only the federal government is allowed to regulate immigration issues. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the city of Escondido who then rescinded the anti-immigrant landlord law and agreed to pay $90,000 dollars to the civil rights attorneys.
The citizens of the city of San Bernardino filed a ballot initiative for the voters that would have also prohibited landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. The majority of the members of the city council voted against the measure and it was not approved. Similar efforts have taken place in other states such as Florida, Texas, and New Jersey. More than 90 cities or counties in the country considered passing laws designed to discourage undocumented immigrants from living there. The AB 976 applies to all cities and counties in California and ensures that no similar laws will be passed. Without this law, every city and county could pass a similar law and each would require separate costly lawsuits to stop them.
Opponents of the AB 976 have said that landlords should be allowed to refuse to rent to undocumented immigrants. They say that this will help stop “illegal immigration” and “prevent squalor that is dangerous for everyone and causes parking and sanitation problems for the surrounding neighborhoods.” It is interesting to note that landlord associations and apartment owners associations support the AB 976 because they do not want the responsibility of checking the immigration status of their tenants.
Democrats cast all of the votes in the California Assembly and Senate in favor of the new law. Republicans cast all of the votes against the new law.
Anyone that is asked to declare his or her immigration status when applying to rent a house or apartment should immediately contact the consular offices of his country or an attorney. Unless victims of unlawful conduct use the law to assert their rights and punish those who violate those rights, justice cannot be achieved. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
Jess J. Araujo, Esq.