Lawmakers Move to Protect Students and Renters from Scrutiny Based on Immigration Status

Los Angeles — Bills introduced Wednesday by two Southland lawmakers are designed to protect students and renters from scrutiny based on their immigration status, the legislators said.

Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell, D-Long Beach, said AB 699 would prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from entering California public schools without prior approval from a principal or district superintendent. It would also prevent school officials from collecting information regarding the immigration status of a student or their family members, he said.

"No student should ever fear coming to school," said O'Donnell, a teacher and chair of the Assembly Education Committee. "Regardless of your stance on immigration, we can all agree school campuses are no place to conduct raids or investigate kids who want nothing more than to learn in a safe environment."

The bill also addresses the apparent trend of students being bullied based on their immigration status or religious customs, O'Donnell said.

The legislation would require school districts to provide relevant counseling, inform parents about their child's right to a free public education and teach students about the negative impacts of bullying based on immigration status, religious beliefs or ethnic background, O'Donnell said.

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AB 699 -- which awaits referral to its first policy committee -- was co- authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, a former criminal prosecutor and civil rights attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.

Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, introduced a bill yhat would bar all public entities from compelling landlords, rental property owners and managers to obtain information, or take any action, based on the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant or prospective tenant.

"It's not a landlord's job to be an immigration agent," Calderon said. "A person's immigration status is of no significance to a renter."

AB 299 would ensure that a renter's immigration status cannot be used to prevent him or her from being able to find housing that they would otherwise be qualified to obtain, Calderon said.

Current law prohibits cities and counties from requiring rental property owners to collect citizenship status from tenants or prospective tenants. AB 299 would expand that law to prohibit not just cities and counties from this kind of immigration status discrimination, but also the state -- including any state office, department, division, bureau, board or commission, and any public utility, district, public authority, public agency, political subdivision, public corporation or the California State University system.

The proposed law is intended to protect an undocumented person from being targeted and discriminated against by ensuring that those seeking rental housing do not face scrutiny because of their immigration status, Calderon said.

The measure would also ensure that rental property owners would not be required to become de facto immigration agents by being forced to surrender tenant records to public entities, he said.

Tenant leasing decisions would be based upon proper financial and personal qualifications and other health and safety standards without the threat of a lawsuit or administrative recourse, according to the lawmaker.

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