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Escondido’s Landlord Ordinance Halted

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Escondido's tough new housing law aimed at fighting illegal immigration is a no-go and this time by the city council's own doing. Full Focus reporter Amita Sharma has the story.

In sharp contrast to the way the law was passed last month, last night the city council quietly decided to sack the ordinance that had polarized its community and appeared headed for a drawn-out and un-winnable court fight

The council approved the controversial law barring landlords from renting to illegal immigrants four weeks ago. The move came amid a storm of protest from civil rights advocates and endorsements by groups favoring immigration reform. At the time, council member Sam Abed who backed the measure, told Full Focus the issues was about economic progress.  

Abed: It’s not an ordinance that is going to kick people out of Escondido. It is an ordinance and an argument between poverty and prosperity. Escondido has the lowest median income in North County and that gap has been growing and growing for the last 15 years.

 But landlords and illegal immigrants sued the city calling the ordinance unconstitutional. In a statement, city officials said they gave up the chance to stand by their law in court because the legal battle would have been costly and lengthy. But that’s something that David Blair-Loy, executive director of the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter, says he told Escondido months ago.

Blair-Loy: I told them from the beginning this law was going to go down in court, would not survive legal scrutiny as written or as they could reasonably amend it.

Still, Blair-Loy says he’s pleased that Escondido eventually decided not to attempt to enforce its controversial housing law.

Blair-Loy: Given that we were forced to litigate this issue, I’m extremely happy that we solved this problem as soon as possible, as early as possible, as early as possible. We’re only a month into the case. This case could have gone on for months and months more. And we would have gotten exactly the same point which is a permanent injunction of enforcement of the ordinance but it would have cost thousands and thousands of dollars more in time and money.”

In backing off of its ordinance, the city has agreed to settle the lawsuit challenging the law. Federal Judge John Huston still has to sign off on the settlement. Huston had said Escondido’s law had raised serious questions about tenants being evicted without due process or a public hearing.

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