‘Immigrant Tenant Protection Act’ announced in San Francisco

David Chiu 4

David Chiu

Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) Friday joined San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, state and local legislative colleagues, and immigration attorneys and advocates to announce the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act of 2017 in San Francisco’s Mission District. Assembly Bill (AB) 291 strengthens state law to protect immigrant tenants from intimidation and retaliation in their homes.

“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. “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.”

“Even under ordinary circumstances, immigrant tenants shouldn’t have to fear being reported to immigration authorities by their landlords, who know so much about them. The events of the last two weeks make the need for these protections only more certain,” said Jith Meganathan, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law & Poverty, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

AB 291 bars landlords from disclosing information related to tenants’ immigration status.  The bill 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.

Landlords are in possession of sensitive information about tenants such as their social security numbers, the number of people in their household, the language(s) they speak, what they do for a living, and when they are home. This measure 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 our immigrant neighbors.

As Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee, Assemblymember Chiu received complaints from around the state describing incidents where landlords threatened to report tenants to immigration authorities unless they vacated immediately (see examples below). 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.

Several other legislators have signed on to lead the effort to advance AB 291, including Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) as joint authors, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) as principal co-author and Senator Ben Allen (D–Santa Monica) and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D–San Jose) as co-authors.