It comes as no surprise that threats of ICE arrests and fear of immigration officials have exponentially been on the rise since the election. What is surprising is the way some families are being targeted in their own homes by their landlords.
The exploitation of immigrants (documented or not) is fear mongering and unethical. Jith Meganathan, a policy advocate over at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, stated to Citylab that, “We have somewhere between two-and-a-half million and three million undocumented individuals living in California, most of whom are renters. Unscrupulous landlords are taking advantage of their knowledge of that fact to deprive tenants of their legal rights.”
According to Citylab, “some landlords are now threatening to report undocumented tenants or mixed-status households to ICE in order to raise their rents. Or to evict tenants seen as undesirable, in the hopes of drawing a more affluent renter class in gentrifying neighborhoods.” As if these families already didn’t feel safe in their homes.
As someone that was undocumented for a bit over ten years I can express how unsafe and on-edge being at home could be. Sure, homes are sheltered safe-spaces. However, there was always the heavy silence when you realize that at any moment an ICE raid could happen in your residence.
This same fear cannot be perpetrated by landlords against their tenants. Undocumented individuals go through extensive actions to remain under the radar of government officials. They already fear reporting crimes, applying for federal aid, and even making friends, stop making them further fear being at home. It is a shame that individuals are instilling fear tactics in order to take advantage of tenants.
In case you may not have known, under California state law, landlords cannot ask a tenant/family about their immigration status. Assembly Bill 291—the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act of 2017— is a bill that strengthens the protection of renters by prohibiting landlords from even disclosing a tenant’s immigration status to authorities. This same bill makes it illegal for landlords to even threaten their tenants about reporting their status to ICE/government officials.
To the undocumented immigrants that are facing similar situations, I am sorry that people are getting bolder with their threats. I understand that even with knowing that their behavior is unlawful, you may still fear reporting/seeking a lawyer to defend you against the landlord. The reminder of the legality when it comes to renting homes to undocumented immigrants is aimed to raise awareness and warn landlords. You already have the right and power to evict families, do not instill fear in them on top of that. As for the rest of us, let’s check in on any undocumented families we know. Let us protect them. Let us advocate for them.