A mother of three, who had to take out a restraining order on her husband, was forced by her landlord to sign a new lease that raised the rent price. She signed the new lease because the landlord threatened to call immigration if she didn’t. “She believed this manager,” said Shirley Gibson of Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, “because when he was making the threat he was wearing the red hat—the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat—and to her mind that meant, ‘This is a person who really hates me.’”
This is not an isolated case. Multiple tenants are reporting that they’ve received similar threats—landlords avoiding fixing problems, raising the rent, or even evicting them, all while saying that if they comply with the landlords, or face ICE.
These threats, according to Citylab, skyrocketed since Trump’s election. The landlords now feel empowered to use ICE as a weapon. Jith Meganathan, a policy advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, told Citylab, “We have somewhere between two-and-a-half million and three million undocumented individuals living in California, most of whom are renters. Unscrupulous landlords are taking advantage of their knowledge of that fact to deprive tenants of their legal rights.”
Before Trump took office, when these issues came up, Gibson assured clients that ICE would probably not act on random reports. But that was before Trump. “Now, who knows?” she says, “I can’t say to people that won’t happen.”