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Escondido Landlord Ordinance Draws Heat

Escondido City councilmembers will vote this week on an ordinance that would target landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. Reporter Rebecca Tolin has more.

This Wednesday, the Escondido City Council will vote on the ordinance that would target landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. Under the proposed law, landlords accused of renting to illegal immigrants would have to show the city documentation that their tenants are legal residents. If they can’t produce those documents, they could face fines and have their business license suspended. If landlords continue to violate the ordinance, they could be charged with a misdemeanor and face jail time.

The three councilmembers supporting the ordinance say it would help clean up overcrowded apartments housing multiple families. Opponents say it’s a racially-motivated attempt to discriminate against Latinos.

Bill Flores, El Grupo spokesperson: So in effect, this ordinance will evict both non-citizens and citizens, young children out into the street. We don't feel that's what America is all about. We don't throw families out into the streets simply because of immigration status.

Sam Abed, Escondido City councilmember: The majority of landlords here are doing a good job to renting to good families here. But there has been a tremendous abuse from some landlords in renting their apartments to illegals and allowing four, five and six families to live in one house. I've heard a lot of them charge by the head and this is not acceptable. 

If this passes, it would be the first law of its kind in California. A Pennsylvania city passed a similar law and is facing legal challenges. The ACLU is threatening to do the same thing in Escondido if the measure is passed. The vote is scheduled for this Wednesday evening at 4 p.m. at Escondido City Hall. Three of the five councilmembers are strongly in support of it. 

The law would require landlords to collect documents from all tenants. The city would approach landlords if there is a valid complaint against them. At that time, landlords would have to submit their tenants’ documents to the city. The Escondido business license department will contact the federal government to verify citizenship. So councilmember Abed says the burden is not on the landlords, although not all landlords see it that way.