INK_BLAST | SMALL TOWNS ARE TARGETING UNDOCUMENTED TENANTS
Many small towns and cities are acting like vigilantes and taking immigration matters into their own hands.
Close to 90 municipalities in 27 states have drafted — and a handful have enacted into law — ordinances that prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. Penalties have also been approved, making a national policy issue a harsh economic reality for local tenants.
Among the cities that have received national attention for enacting rental bans are Farmers Branch, Texas, Palm Bay, Fla., Valley Park, Mo., Riverside, N.J., and Hazleton, Pa.
The rental bans essentially turn landlords into federal immigration officers. Because they are not provided any training or supervision in this area, these landlords may escalate tensions.
As for tenants, many of them might be too scared to face questions about their legal status and end up putting themselves and their families in dangerous living situations.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 13.9 million people (including 4.7 million children) belong to families in which the head of the household is an undocumented immigrant.
These ordinances punish mostly the low-skilled Latino workers who stand outside places like Home Depot, waiting for contract work; the bus boys at your favorite restaurant; the gardeners who keep your yard beautiful; and the hotel maids and short-order cooks on your business trip.
Since Latinos make up the majority of illegal immigrants (78 percent, compared to 13 percent of Asians and 6 percent Europeans and Canadians), opponents of the rental bans are asking: Is this a way to target working-class Latino immigrants and run them out of town?
Small towns are facing a new reality, one that has for decades been relegated to major cities: People looking for work and a better life for their families are bypassing the major urban centers and heading straight for the suburbs. And you can’t get any more American than that.
*Adapted from an op-ed syndicated by the Progressive Media Project.
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit www.juleykalantigua.com ."