Tuesday, May 27, 2008

HB 1365 Scheduled for Floor Debate and Vote

It looks like Rep. Tim Burns' bill (HB 1365) that would criminalize renting to an undocumented immigrant is scheduled for debate on the House Floor tomorrow, May 28, pretty early on in the session.

Here are a few of my reasons why this bill should be opposed:

(1) This legislation sets landlords, realtors, and property owners up for potential litigation under the Fair Housing Act, "which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status." Even whether or not a landlord, realtor, or property owner would prevail in such a lawsuit, simply having to defend himself against such charges is a burden placed on this individual or realty company by the state through this legislation that requires what could be considered discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
(2) The verification of citizenship or legal immigration status is not a common practice among individual landlords, realtors, or property owners, who are untrained to determine what documentation constitutes acceptable proof of such things. This places a law enforcement burden on such individuals or realty businesses that they should not have to assume, for which they are unprepared, and which may place them at some legal risk. Also, for this reason, this legislation is essentially unenforceable. For instance, how will landlords, realtors, and property owners be trained to serve as such immigration law enforcement officers? Who will assure this training is provided to landlords, realtors, and property owners? Is accepting a driver's license from another state a valid good-faith effort to determine citizenship or immigration status? Is looking at a passport acceptable? Is it acceptable to ask for these documents only based upon a particular profile, or is it required of landlords, realtors, or property owners in the law for ALL circumstances? These are issues that the legislation doesn't address.
(3) Why is it acceptable for other businesses to sell (or lease) goods and services and survival commodities like food to indviduals without requiring proof of citizenship or legal immigration status, but not for businesses who sell (or lease) the survival commodity of housing? It appears that there is an inequity in this legislation which penalizes and targets one set of entrepreneurs and businesses in their dealings with undocumented migrants but which gives a pass to other sets of entrepreneurs and businesses in their dealings with undocumented migrants.
(4) Every human being, regardless of immigration status, has a basic and fundamental human right to shelter. It is inhumane to deny someone a roof over his head, especially when he or she is capable and willing to pay fair market price for such shelter.
It is still not too late to contact your legislators and register your opposition to this legislation. Please do so.

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