California Town Aims to Bar Illegal Immigrants from Renting
JOHN YDSTIE, Host:
From member station KPCC, Steven Cuevas has more.
STEVEN CUEVAS: Joseph Turner says he's tired of waiting.
JOSEPH TURNER: We've been waiting for over 25 years for them to do something about the illegal alien situation. The time is over for waiting for the federal government to get off its ass and do anything.
CUEVAS: San Bernardino Councilman Chas Kelley is among the few city officials to support the measure.
CHAS KELLEY: Some would make the reach that this is racist. This is not. This is simply about obeying the law, and the law is you come here legally, period.
CUEVAS: Ben Lamson owns and operates 53 apartment units in San Bernardino. He's also a board member of the Apartment Association of the Greater Inland Empire. Lampson worries that the measure would create a host of problems for property managers.
BEN LAMSON: We want to get control of the illegal immigration situation, but the way this particular ballot initiative is written right now, it's unworkable, it's unfair, it's very hard to implement. You know, it's turning the rental owners, as well as the city now, kind of, into the federal immigration police people.
CUEVAS: In a quiet, San Bernardino neighborhood, a handful of Latino workers are repaving a driveway. The crew's boss, Rick Avila(ph), says his workers are here legally. He says he's against illegal immigration and did not support the recent marches and boycotts, but he doubts the proposed measure would have much impact on his industry.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION WORKSITE)
RICK AVILA: The people it would affect would be homeowners who hire people to mow their lawns. Those are the people that usually go to Home Depot and get the day laborers. Not us, as contractors.
CUEVAS: Avila says construction is slowing down in the city, anyway. That's why he's taking smaller jobs like this one. Avila ran for mayor in 2005. Back then, illegal immigration rarely came up; crime, affordable housing, and how to bring more business and more workers into the city, dominated campaign chatter. Avila ranks illegal immigration near the bottom of the city's problems.
AVILA: I think it should be a federal issue, not a city issue.
CUEVAS: Still, the measure's author, Joseph Turner, is eager for other localities to embrace legislation just like it.
TURNER: If something this can pass in the city of San Bernardino, then it can probably pass anywhere. And I'm hoping that this will be a landmark development in the illegal immigration debate. And if we're successful, it should prove to elected officials that they can run on this issue.
CUEVAS: At a recent meeting in nearby Riverside, Turner's proposal was a burning topic. U.C. Riverside ethnic studies Professor, Armando Navarro, warned of such legislation passing in San Bernardino, or anywhere.
ARMANDO NAVARRO: It is a provision that is developed with a specific purpose of almost creating not a genocide in the physical sense, but a removal of the immigrant community from San Bernardino.
CUEVAS: For NPR News, I've Steven Cuevas in San Bernardino.
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