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Illinois has joined California as the second U.S. state to enact immigrant tenant protection law.
State Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed a new law to prevent landlords from disclosing or threatening to disclose a tenant’s citizenship status to authorities for the purpose of intimidating or eviction.
The law prevents landlords from, in essence, blackmailing tenants.
Ilinois modeled its law after California, which passed its tenant protections in 2018.
“Where you were born has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to pay rent on time, which is what the relationship between a landlord and a tenant should really be about,” Pritzker said, according to the Chicago Trubine.
Inside the New Immigrant Tenant Protection Act?
Illinois’ new immigrant tenant protection act aims to protect immigrants from harrassment.
According to the act:
- Landlords cannot threaten to disclose or actually disclose information regarding or relating to the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant to any person, entity, or any immigration or law enforcement agency with the intent of harassing or intimidating the tenant, retaliating against the tenant for exercising his or her rights, or influencing the tenant to surrender possession.
- Landlords cannot bring an action to recover possession of a dwelling unit based solely or in part on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant.
- Attorneys cannot report, or threaten to report, the immigration status of persons involved in housing cases.
The new law would also allow people to sue their landlords for using their immigration status as a weapons of retaliation. Each violation could result in a civil penalty up to $2,000 dollars.
The Act does not enlarge or diminish a landlord’s right to terminate a tenancy pursuant to existing State or local law; nor does the Act enlarge or diminish any ability of local government to regulate or enforce a prohibition against a landlord’s harassment of a tenant.
This law does protect tenants from deportation threats.
“Every person in Illinois who rents an apartment has the right to live free from harassment, and to expect that their landlord will provide a well-maintained home,” said Griselda Vega Samuel, Midwest Regional Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, according to Lawndale News. “But often time for many immigrants that was not their reality.”
Why Are Eviction Protections Needed for Latinos?
Salud America!‘s recent research review found hosing issues for many Latinos:
- The amount of Latinos who are “housing cost burdened”─spending 30% or more of household income on housing costs─grew from 42.4% in 2000 to 56.9% in 2015.
- More Latinos rent their homes (54%) than their White peers (28%).
- The rate of Latino renters forced to move involuntarily was significantly higher (23%) than for white (9%) and black (12%) renters, according to a Milwaukee study. One in 12 Latinas reported being evicted in their adult life, compared to 1 in 15 white women.
Low-income Latinas and women of color face highest risk of eviction, according to a report.
Evictions often result in many severe consequences. Evictions increase the chances of job loss, disrupt children’s educations, and has long-term psychological effects for children and adults.
“Only one in four families who qualifies for affordable housing programs gets any kind of help,” according to the Eviction Lab website.
What Can We Do?
The new immigrant protection laws in Illinois and California are a good start.
Helping renters stay in their homes is another way to help.
For example, in 2009, Milwaukee tenants facing eviction were given access to emergency housing aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The city’s formal eviction rate fell by 15%.
The Salud America! research review also suggested helping pay for Latinos involved in housing court.
“Establishing publicly funded legal services for Latino families in housing court could prevent the long-term negative consequences of eviction, decrease homelessness, and help limit discrimination in the eviction decision,” according to the research.
Check out more stories on affordable housing and Latino health!