A controversial ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis may have a significant impact on undocumented immigrants looking for housing. A federal appeals panel upheld a municipal ban out of Nebraska requiring landlords to check the immigration status of potential renters. The town of Fremont has quickly begun enforcing the ruling and other cities with similar ordinances may begin to do the same, potentially leaving immigrants without a home.
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Last year, U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled that parts of the ordinance were discriminatory for denying housing permits to undocumented immigrants and this interfered with federal law. The city, however, has been enforcing the requirement for businesses to use the E-verify software to check on potential employees. On Friday, two judges in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected this reasoning and reversed the ruling. According to Judge James Loken, the plaintiffs “failed to show the law was intended to discriminate against Latinos or that it intrudes on federal law.”
This ruling may have a significant impact on other courts determining the legality of similar local laws. Two other federal appeals courts ruled against communities in a Texas and Pennsylvania town. These laws targeted landlords and employers to dissuade them from renting or hiring those in the country illegally. "You've got the U.S. Senate passing sweeping immigration reform. You've got this huge, nationwide change going on," Aaron Siebert-Llera, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said. "Then you have a decision like this coming out."
Kris Kobach, the conservative, anti-immigrant attorney who represented the Nebraska town and helped draft the ordinance applauded the Court’s ruling. "And I think it has indirect implications for cities all across the country, and certainly cities in Nebraska, that may wish to take similar steps to stop the negative effects of illegal immigration," Kobach said. Kobach says that the ordinance will require all renters in the city to apply for an occupancy permit. Many wonder if the ordinance will soon be in place in neighboring cities such as St. Louis. The Eighth Circuit had upheld a similar anti-immigrant local ordinance several years ago from the St. Louis suburb of Valley Park.
Unfortunately this ordinance may leave many undocumented immigrants with no place to stay and force them to move to other cities where this is not enforced.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against in Missouri or Illinois because of your immigration status, or if you are wondering how the potential changes to U.S. immigration law may affect you, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.