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Escondido Finalizes Rental Ban on Illegal Immigrants

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On Wednesday, the Escondido City Council gave its final vote of approval to a controversial housing ordinance, penalizing landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. Already, legal advocacy groups are vowing to do whatever they can to stop enforcement of this law, saying it’s unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Essentially, the law subjects landlords to fines and possible misdemeanor charges, if they rent units to undocumented tenants. The city would respond to complaints by asking landlords to produce documentation on their tenants’ immigration status. Those documents would then go to the federal government for verification. The three supporting council members - Marie Waldron, Sam Abed and Ed Gallo - say the law will help clean up the blighted Mission Park neighborhood. They complain landlords are renting single apartments to multiple families, and many are illegal immigrants.

During the first council vote two weeks ago, Latino families and activists faced off against Minutemen and other residents who support the law. As expected, tonight the council majority supported the new law in its second reading. Even though the law hasn’t yet gone into effect, both sides report some landlords are already questioning tenants.

Ed Gallo, Escondido City Councilmember: I heard already there are landlords out there who are doing their job and they're questioning now the legal status of their tenants and so I thought okay this is good, they're finally getting the message that they shouldn't be packing people into apartments.

K ristina Campbell, MALDEF attorney: Even people that are citizens, people that are residents, are being asked to prove they are here legally. And this isn't happening to Canadians, or Irish immigrants, it's happening to Latino immigrants. And so it's creating a very sad situation and a hostile environment for people that's just unacceptable.

There’s a mandatory 30-day waiting period. So the earliest the law could be enforced is November 18, and that’s barring any legal action. But the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU and other groups anticipate filing a lawsuit and asking for an injunction to halt enforcement. They say federal law regulates the harboring of illegal immigrants. It’s not up to cities and towns to regulate.

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