SAN DIEGO — Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union persuaded a federal judge to temporarily block the city of Hazleton, Pa., from enforcing a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Now, it will test its argument in California.
The ACLU lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Diego, alleges that a law recently passed by Escondido illegally punishes landlords for renting to illegal immigrants.
It asks the court to stop the law from taking effect Friday in the suburb 30 miles north of San Diego where Hispanics make up 42 percent of the 142,000 residents. U.S. District Judge John Houston was scheduled to hear oral arguments Thursday on the request.
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 licenses. Repeat offenders could face misdemeanor charges and fines.
The lawsuit alleges that the ordinance — which is modeled on Hazleton’s — violates federal and state laws and puts landlords in an “impossible position” of enforcing immigration laws.
“The ordinance is riddled with constitutional flaws and ignores the subtleties, complexities and primacy of federal immigration law,” according to the lawsuit.
The city argues that the law aims to alleviate the “significant and costly burdens on society” that are posed by illegal immigrants. Officials have said it would only be enforced on leases signed after it takes effect.
More than 50 municipalities nationwide have considered, passed or rejected laws to crack down on illegal immigration.
In Hazleton, a pair of measures approved by the City Council would impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, deny business permits to companies that give them jobs, and require tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit. A federal judge temporarily prohibited the laws from taking effect, saying they posed “irreparable harm” to landlords, tenants and businesses that cater to Hispanics.
This week, the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch adopted a measure that would require tenants to submit documentation to the landlord when making or renewing leases. That measure takes effect Jan. 12.