SAN DIEGO -- Warning: This column takes issue with a half-baked "solution," and thus will likely elicit angry letters accusing the author of "supporting illegal immigration." And since the author is Mexican-American, some readers may charge that he is "trying to bring over relatives." There are those who claim the in-vogue idea of municipalities banning landlords from renting to illegal immigrants is cruel, inhumane and heavy-handed. But, for me, the real problem with such bans is that they're dishonest, misdirected, and destined to fail.
Dishonest because these measures -- approved by officials in Escondido, Calif., Hazleton, Pa., and, last week, Farmers Branch, Texas -- feed this notion of an invasion, as if the good people of City X or Town Y were minding their own business and, suddenly, off in the distance, comes an army of Mexican immigrants. It couldn't be that these "good people" are hiring illegal immigrants or excusing those who hire them.
Get it right. This is a self-inflicted wound. Illegal immigrants aren't invading. They've been invited. I used to live near Farmers Branch, and now I live near Escondido. I've had it with folks in these places playing dumb as to how their cities got to this point, as if they haven't been riding this tiger for the last decade while enjoying a robust economy and the comforts provided by cheap immigrant labor.
In fact, while the city councils in Escondido and Hazleton put in place fines for employers, officials in Farmers Branch tabled such a provision. What? The Farmers Branch City Council spoke so eloquently about fending off the scourge of illegal immigration, but then gave employers a free ride. Que paso? Employers aren't as easy to pick on as illegal immigrants -- not if you're a politician in North Texas who has to raise money to further your political aspirations.
Misdirected because these measures try to enforce immigration law by targeting landlords who rent to folks who turn out to be illegal immigrants. I'll be darned if I can figure how squeezing landlords helps enhance border security. If people have a problem with illegal immigration, let them target it head-on -- not nibble around the edges with housing bans.
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