The sentence on discrimination in the mobile home park has been appealed

Plaintiffs in a long-standing housing discrimination case are trying to overturn a district court ruling that would allow Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia to evict tenants based on a family member’s immigration status. The appeal, led by the Legal Aid Justice Center and pro bono consultant Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, garnered support from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and numerous fair housing and civil rights organizations, all of which have filed amicus pleadings. stating that the district court ruling, if upheld, would have dramatic consequences for both landowners and immigrants nationwide.

Filed in 2016, the lawsuit claims that a Waples policy requiring adult tenants to show proof of legal immigration status has an unfair impact on Latinos and therefore violates the Fair Housing Act (FHA). When Waples began enforcing the policy in 2015, she forced plaintiffs – all families in which the father has legal status in the United States, the mother is undocumented, and the children are U.S. citizens – and others to lose l ‘accommodation.

Waples said his policy is necessary to avoid criminal liability under a federal statute that prohibits the reception of undocumented immigrants. Although this argument has been denied twice in court, including in 2018 by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a May 2022 district court ruling ruled in favor of Waples based on his “anti-harboring” claim. The plaintiffs’ appeal, filed on 8 September, will be heard again by the Fourth Circuit.

According to the Department of Justice amicus brief, filed jointly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the district court’s ruling must be overturned because “it did not properly analyze whether Waples was at risk of criminal liability for hosting. “. The Department of Justice, which is the authority to enforce federal law against the port, goes on to dismantle Waples’ argument that its screening policy was necessary to avoid such liability, saying it “does not prosecute residential owners simply because they do not, in the normal course of business, check the immigration status of every person who lives in their rentals “.

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, commented, “Waples argued in court that checking your tenants’ immigration status was the prudent and cautious thing to do. But the DOJ statement makes it clear that the prudent and prudent thing to do is simply not ask questions about immigration status. The feds won’t prosecute you if you don’t ask, but if you ask, you could bring a lawsuit or enforcement action under the Fair Housing Act. “

Waples was unable to show any evidence to the district court that they ran the actual risk of being prosecuted by the federal charge for renting undocumented immigrants, or even that they genuinely considered the risk of prosecution in deciding to enforcing this policy, which had existed on the books for decades, but was largely ignored.

Zuckerman Spaeder’s attorney Nicholas DiCarlo said, “Waples’ defense focused on perceived anti-port concerns, but in reality, his sudden request for proof of tenant immigration status was entirely unrelated to such concerns. The anti-harboring argument is a smokescreen that does not explain Waples’ actions or provide a reasonable legal basis for supporting his discriminatory policy. “

In addition to refuting the district court’s legal findings, other friends point to the significant national impact of upholding the sentence.

John Trasviña, who was the principal legal counsel to the United States Director of Immigration and Law Enforcement and as an assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote: “if the district court had reason that landlords face criminal liability simply for renting to an undocumented individual … which would send shockwaves through the real estate industry “and lead to” a noticeable change in the lives of not just deprived individuals. of documents … but also in the lives of millions of US citizens and legal residents who might … seem strangers to a potential landlord. ”The brief noted that, of the approximately 11 million undocumented people in the United States United, approximately 7 million are tenants who would be directly affected by this ruling.

A group of seven civil rights and fair housing organizations, including the National Fair Housing Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a brief statement saying the district court decision “would prevent and stop housing providers … from fulfilling their mission to help ensure safe, affordable and affordable housing for all individuals and families. ”Others who signed the brief include the Civil Rights Advocates Committee under the law, the Equal Rights Center, and Virginia’s equalized housing opportunities.

Another request was made by the National Housing Law Project, the National Homelessness Law Center, the National Immigrant Law Center and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which wrote that “Allowing such a blatantly discriminatory policy to resist will give the green light not only the refusal of landlords to rent to families on the basis of their actual or perceived immigration status, but could invite a myriad of other illegal behaviors on the part of property owners ”.

Others working on the case include Adam Abelson of Zuckerman Spaeder and the Legal Aid Justice Center, Nady Peralta, Clay Warner, and Larisa Zehr.

The case is Reyes, et al. v Waples Mobile Home Park Limited Partnership, et al., no. 22-1660.

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