Landlords across California are exploiting undocumented immigrants’ fear of deportation by threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on them if they don’t move out, according to housing advocates and attorneys.
Although this type of thing is not new, the threat has been increasingly used under President Donald Trump to evict tenants, raise rents, and suppress complaints about living conditions. In fact, according to advocates, most threats to report an individual or family to ICE come when tenants complain about conditions such as leaky plumbing and mold in their homes.
Leonardo Vilchis, executive director of Boyle Heights community group Union de Vecinos, told LAist that landlords were using discrimination as a way to further gentrify areas. He spoke about one such incident in which a tenant’s landlord tried once again to illegally raise her rent:
“Three days ago, she called me and said, ‘The landlord wants to increase the rent again, and she told me that if I don’t do it she’s going to call the police or get me deported,'” Vilchis said. “And because we’ve had a relationship with the landlord we immediately fired out a letter and they backed off, but this is a tenant who’s [already] connected to us, and knows the situation. Just the fact that after years of having this battle, now she ups the ante and says ‘We’ll call immigration and get you deported,’ it’s bad,” he continued, adding that his larger concern was for tenants in similar situations who might not know their rights or already be connected with community groups.”
These testimonies from across the state come at a time when communities home to undocumented immigrants have expressed a heightened sense of fear due to the increased visibility of aggressive ICE actions, including arresting individuals while they appear in courthouses and as they begin the process of obtaining green cards.
A bill is now circulating in the California legislature that would make it illegal for a property owner to disclose the immigration status of their tenants to immigration authorities as a means of intimidation.