Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Landlords: Our First Line Of National Defense

Here’s a hypothetical question: say you can’t afford a single-family house, so you buy a multi-family instead. Your plan is to live in one apartment and rent out the others to pay the mortgage. You’re a very responsible landlord, keeping the place in good shape and treating your tenants fairly, and they in turn don’t give you any trouble. Does your status as a landlord mean you should be forced to become an unpaid deputy of the INS, checking your tenants’ immigration or citizenship status to ensure they’re not in the country illegally? Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, says yes.
Hazleton, a city of about 31,000 people 80 miles from Philadelphia, voted last month to fine landlords $1,000 for renting to illegal immigrants, deny business permits to companies that give them jobs, and make English the city’s official language.

So landlords and business owners will be working for the INS. The mayor “proposed the ordinance after two illegal immigrants were charged with shooting and killing a man,” the article says, since illegals can’t kill anybody if you don’t rent them an apartment first.

Sometimes when I type up the police blotter at work I’ll see an arrestee is “of no certain address,” which never stops him from committing a crime but I’m probably digressing here. Anyway, the article doesn’t give too many more details beyond this:

It is not clear how many illegal immigrants live in Hazleton, but the city’s Hispanic population has soared in recent years.
So I went looking for more about this story. Most of Google News’ first hits when I searched “Lou Barletta” were rehashes of the same bland AP bit, but I did find an interesting letter to the editor written by a woman who praises Barletta’s anti-immigration stance because it will stop the slaughter in Iraq and save us from the Nazis (I think):
Our country is not run by one leader alone. The foundation of our forefathers upholds our freedoms built on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and our pledge to uphold these freedoms.

We the people, in order to form a more perfect government, must speak out while we have a voice.

Mayor Lou Barletta, Hazelton, Pa., spoke out for the American people. We applaud you.

History repeats, and our young men are being slaughtered, shedding their own blood in the George W. Bush self-appointed war. Remembering World War II Nazi Germany: "and I didn't speak up and then they came for me." Has political correctness held the tight-lipped American taxpayers in bondage?

Elie Weisel quotes, "Because I remember I despair. Because I remember I have the duty to reject despair."

Another day on the battlefield can be a day too late. Another life lost is another life too many. Are we guilty of indirectly making this war possible? Are we the culprits?

Let us put an end to this insane madness while we still have a voice.

FRANCES ROSE, Framingham

Caveat: it’s not necessarily Barletta’s fault that the first supporter of his I could find in a Google search turned out to be the Frances Rose of Framingham, Pennsylvania. Determined to be fair, I searched again and found Barletta himself explaining the benefits of this law:
[Barletta says] he is taking steps to ensure the law is enforced fairly.“I’m aware of people’s concerns that they’ll be targeted,” said Barletta, clasping his hands in front of him and shaking his head.

Leaders of the Hispanic community and activists promising a legal challenge have expressed concerns the ordinance will cause landlords, fearing punishment, to simply not rent to any Hispanics or subject them to more scrutiny than tenants of other ethnic backgrounds.

That is why Barletta said he would require all tenants to register with city hall and pay a $10 fee to obtain an occupancy permit. If they do not, their landlords could be punished, regardless of the renter’s immigration or citizenship status.

The illegal immigration ordinance, which will take effect in about two months, fines landlords $1,000 per illegal tenant and $100 for each day the renter stays after the initial fine. Another proposed ordinance, which passed the first reading a week ago, would enforce the same fines for landlords renting to any tenant who fails to obtain a permit, even if they are a legal resident or a U.S. citizen.

See how it works? The city will check the renters’ immigration status, so I was wrong to say this places an unreasonable burden on landlords to do background checks on their tenants. No, it merely requires people who aren’t homeowners to get permits from the government before they can pay for a place to live. Hooray for Mayor Lou Barletta, defending the principles of American freedom from the oppressive Mexican hordes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget this punishes all tenants, even people who already have apartments. It doesn't matter, apparently, whether the present tenants are legal or illegal, rich or poor, families or singles, working class or professional, kids with their first place or great-grandmothers with their last. It doesn't apparently matter whether their apartments are 800 square feet or 2200, basic or luxury, on the wrong side of the tracks or within walking distance of City Hall.

Come to think of it, it punishes all landlords as well, who have to throw out profitable, creditable renters who any landlord would be happy to rent to. Expect the vacancy rate to soar and then plummet as landlords are forced out of the business or choose to go somewhere else where it is safer to do business.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Beside the Preview button, we should have a "Second thoughts" button too, that doesn't publish until you're sure you've mentioned everything... lol)

Anyway, notice that each and every tenant now needs to go get the proper government papers to prove they are not criminals. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? I guess it's like being searched at the airport--Granny, who's lived in the same apartment for 15 years, has to get out her walker and bus down to City Hall next to the receptionist who has more than enough trouble paying the rent and the retail clerk whose pay will be docked for the time he has to take off work. They'll join in the line the recently divorced surgeon, the couple trying to save to buy their first house, and the legal immigrant whose Navy husband met and married her in Madrid, but who isn't around right now to help her tell the bureaucrats she isn't an illegal from Mexico.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Something you're missing here. As a Landlord, having to deal with one more piece of paper like this, my rent just went up. Seriously, for the hassle cost for the risk of getting hit for $1000. Also, what about someone moving in without me knowing about it, is it just the people on the lease or what?

Then, thinking further to avoid having to use the "afterthoughts" button..;>...If these permits are certificates, meaning no picture, am I supposed to call City Hall and make sure it's a valid permit?


But it makes someone feel good.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Initial fee of $1,000, Moose. And an additional $100 per day after that. When I read the first story I linked to I was furious on behalf of the landlords; then, reading Barletta's later permit-justification I became enraged on behalf of landlords and tenants alike.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous thoreau said...

You should totally mention this on Hit and Run, Jennifer. See how the immigration hawks respond. After all, this is a violation of property rights.

I used to think that opposition to immigration controls was a principled position. Now I think it's also a consequentialist position: The only way to really crack down on illegal immigration would be to crack down on employers and landlords. But once you do that you create tremendous bureaucratic hassles for any citizen who wants to get a job or rent an apartment. Which in turn damages the economy, and violates property rights. (That last part, about property rights, is probably a bigger sin to some libertarians than violations of privacy or abuses of police power.)

If a serious effort to crack down on immigration is a consequentialist nightmare, then from a libertarian perspective the only thing that makes sense is liberalization. (Which is not the same as an open border, although you'll never get John on Hit and Run to admit that.)

5:42 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Initial fee of $1,000, Moose. And an additional $100 per day after that.

I caught that, it's stupid. If they were to bring me in because one of my tenants is supposedly lacking a permit, even though I saw a permit, I would think it would be relatively easy to say "I'm not the one checking the background". Then, there'd be another law, requiring the landlords themselves to do so.

I've had a number of tenants who are very concerned with privacy (I've given up on myself, but I have guns and know how to use them). Therefore, they rent from me as an individual landlord, and I pick up the utilities on a reimbursable basis. If these permits are keyed to a specific address, which will probably be the case so they could charge for each move ($$), I could see that as highly dangerous. I have one woman who lives life in a very careful manner, and has thus far been pretty good at avoiding the stalker, but I have gotten suspicious calls asking if she's a tenant of mine. Of course, I deny it. This would put her directly in crosshairs, literally.

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you lived in Phoenix, AZ, you might consider this thought...

6:04 PM  

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