Groups Challenge SoCal Immigration Law

Saturday, November 04, 2006

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SAN DIEGO — The American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups sued the city of Escondido in an effort to overturn a new law that prohibits landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in San Diego federal court, says the ordinance violates federal and state laws and puts landlords in an"impossible position"of enforcing immigration laws.

It asks the court to prevent the law from taking effect Nov. 18 in the city, which is 30 miles northwest of San Diego. Hispanics make up 42 percent of Escondido's 142,000 residents.

The City Council voted 3-2 last month to require landlords to submit documentation of their tenants'immigration status to the city, which would then verify that information with the federal government.

If tenants are found to be illegal immigrants, landlords would be given 10 days to evict them or face suspension of their business license. Repeat offenders could face misdemeanor charges and fines.

"The ordinance will have, and has already had, the effect of inducing landlords to deny housing to persons on the basis of race or national origin,"the lawsuit alleges."The ordinance is riddled with constitutional flaws and ignores the subtleties, complexities and primacy of federal immigration law."

Escondido City Attorney Jeffrey Epp declined to comment on the complaint, saying the city will respond in court papers.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Escondido landlords and two women who live in the country illegally but whose children are U.S. citizens and attend school in the city. They are also represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Scrutiny of immigration policy has led to similar proposals around the nation. On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked the city of Hazleton, Pa., from enforcing a measure would have required tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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