Landlord to illegal immigrants

[Conor Friedersdorf]

I'm surprised I've not seen more written about this attempt to prosecute a landlord for renting to illegal immigrants.

LEXINGTON, KY. — Four illegal immigrants who rented from Lexington landlords have testified they showed only Mexican identification when they applied for apartments.

The immigrants, who are to be deported, testified in depositions that they did not present American driver's licenses or Social Security cards. One, Adnan Ramirez-Jimenez, even showed a Mexican voter registration card, indicating Mexican citizenship, and a manager wrote on his rental application, "first time in USA."

Ramirez-Jimenez testified that he did not show apartment management at Cross Keys Apartments any proof he was in the country legally.

The depositions were filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington in the criminal case against William Jerry Hadden, 69, and his son Jamey, who are charged with 24 counts of harboring illegal immigrants and 24 counts of encouraging illegal immigrants to remain in the country.

The case appears to be the first time the federal government has tried to prosecute landlords for renting to illegal immigrants, defense attorneys say.

It's a mistake to make criminals out of landlords for renting to illegal immigrants. Document fraud makes it impossible to verify the legal status of potential tenants. Criminal charges for failure to do so creates a perverse incentive to discriminate against all Hispanics and Asians when renting.

I'd also rather not put landlords in the position of either evicting longtime tenants that they know to be good people, or breaking the law. When possible it's best to avoid passing laws that create unnecessary crises of conscience for law-abiding citizens.

The federal government should focus on identifying and deporting the many illegal immigrants in our prison system, many of whom will be released back onto American streets at the end of their terms. As "landlords" of the prison system you'd think they could handle that job, particularly if they expect citizen landlords possessed of fewer resources and subject to fair housing laws to do the same.