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East County News Service

February 7, 2017 (San Diego) -- Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) announced today she is joint-authoring legislation to protect rental housing tenants from being intimidated or retaliated against because of their immigration status.

Assembly Bill 291, known as the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act of 2017, would bar landlords from disclosing information related to tenants’ immigration status.  It would also prohibit landlords from threatening to report tenants to immigration authorities, whether in retaliation for engaging in legally-protected activities or to influence them to vacate.

The legislation was prompted by reports brought to the Assembly Housing Committee from around the state describing incidents where landlords threatened to report tenants to immigration authorities unless they vacated immediately. In many cases, these threats are made to retaliate against tenants for reporting habitability issues, such as exposed electrical wiring and vermin, which landlords are legally required to fix. Threats are even made in connection with gentrification, when, in order to raise rents, long-time tenants are suddenly targeted for eviction based on their suspected immigration status.

The legislation follows actions by President Donald Trump, who aims to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and withhold funds from sanctuary cities and states that seek to shield immigrants from federal deportation.

“Every member of our community deserves the dignity of a home that is free from harassment or threats, no matter their immigration status.  Just because a resident was born in a different country doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the safety and stability of a home,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, the daughter of immigrants. “Assembly Bill 291 demonstrates we won’t waver away from that freedom, regardless of what Donald Trump thinks.”

Landlords are in possession of sensitive information about tenants such as their social security numbers, the number of people in their household, the languages they speak, what they do for a living, and when they are home. AB 291 will make sure that this information is not misused by landlords and will take away one avenue that the Trump Administration could use to deport immigrants, she adds.

“Tenants should not have to live in fear simply because they are immigrants or refugees. Trump has declared war on immigrants, and it is clear that ripping apart families through mass deportations could be our new reality,” said Assemblymember Chiu, AB 291’s lead author. “This bill will deter the small minority of unscrupulous landlords who take advantage of the real or perceived immigration status of their tenants to engage in abusive and illegal acts.”

AB 291 was introduced on Friday, February 3. It will be eligible to be heard in committee after March 5.   As of today, no opposition has yet been registered to the measure.

Coauthors of the bill include Assemblymen David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), along with Gonzalez Fletcher.