In Sacramento, California, NewsReview.com
- Daniel Saver entered the state Capitol last week on a mission to speak for a woman who could not speak for herself.
An attorney from Palo Alto, Saver had been in the middle of a drama worthy of Dickens’ pen, one that involved a landlord threatening an undocumented mother with the promise of calling immigration authorities if she invoked her rights as a tenant a day before Christmas Eve.
Saver intervened on behalf of Community Legal Services, which counts itself among the small number of legal-aid groups pushing back against a new trend in immigrant exploitation: property owners leveraging fear for profit.
It’s a tactic Saver and his colleagues are seeing more and more, one they think highlights an intersection between California’s skyrocketing rents and an anti-Hispanic tide from the White House.
Saver’s client couldn’t take the chance of being separated from her young children. He says she yielded to the landlord’s intimidation, forgoing legal protections that documented Californians wouldn’t feel the need to surrender.
But without a painful price tag, landlords who engage in immigrant bullying can still make a profit. That point was driven home by Jith Meganathan of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
“In areas where rents are rapidly rising, there are financial incentives to threaten tenants and intimidate them to vacate the premises, so that you don’t have to go through the process of a statutory eviction and can rent the unit out at a high price, much faster,” Meganathan testified. “We need to make a light go on in that landlord’s head—change that financial calculation” by making it illegal and costly for landlords to report tenants.
Meganathan added that, by his count, there are fewer than 200 legal service groups in California helping low-income renters and fewer than 20 private attorneys involved in fair-housing litigation. The small group of attorneys handling those problems are reporting a large volume of incidents, especially cases of undocumented renters being harassed and wrongfully evicted.