East Bay immigrant tenants feel threatened by landlords

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One East Bay agency said they have seen an increase in the number of calls from immigrant tenants whose landlords have threatened to report them to immigration authorities after they made complaints about their living conditions.

At the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, staff attorney Ubaldo Fernandez said the agency has seen an uptick.

“In the past few months we’ve seen an increase in these reports,” he said.

Fernandez said the agency has worked on three recent cases of landlords threatening undocumented tenants in Oakland. In one of those cases, a tenant was concerned about various property repairs and sewage leaking into their unit from upstairs.

“When they complained about it to the landlord and threatened to call Oakland code enforcement out, the landlord then said, ‘If you call code enforcement and continue pursuing this then I will report you to ICE. I know you’re undocumented’.”

While the center has worked on three recent cases, Fernandez said they have received many more calls and there could be other case at other agencies. He said it is illegal in California for a landlord to inquire about a tenant’s immigration status or to retaliate against a tenant that makes complaints about the property.

“However it is not explicitly illegal for a landlord to threaten to have a tenant deported because of their complaints,” he added.

Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo said he has talked with families too about the same concerns. He said it speaks to the larger issue of misinformation and fear in the immigrant community.

Gallo is holding two “Know Your Rights” workshops on Saturday, March 11 at the Fruitvale San Antonio Senior Center at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The workshops will train people what to do in homes, schools, or workplaces if faced with deportations and ICE raids.

“We will go door to door, knocking on people’s door, to tell them information of what you can and can’t do, what you should not say,” Gallo said. “We want to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

State officials are also hoping to ease concerns. Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill last month, AB 291, which would protect immigrant tenants. It seeks to prohibit landlords from threatening to report tenants to immigration authorities whether in retaliation for reporting problems or to influence them to vacate.

For more information on this weekend's Know Your Rights Workshop presented by The San Francisco Immigrant Legal & Education Network (SFILEN), click here