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Judge Puts Hold on Escondido Rental Measure

A federal judge placed a hold on the enactment of an Escondido law restricting illegal immigrants from renting within the city limits just one day before the controversial measure would have gone into effect.

U.S. District Judge John A. Houston ruled late Nov. 16, granting a temporary restraining order that will halt the city’s law for 90 to 120 days or until a preliminary injunction hearing can be held. A hearing schedule is anticipated by Nov. 20.

Houston said he had serious questions on nearly every argument the plaintiffs raised, including whether the law bears irreparable harm for tenants and landlords.

He said the “ordinance is void of any mention of due process rights” and lacks an opportunity for tenants to be heard “in a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.”

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The judge expressed concerns about an interpretive memo signed Nov. 10 by the city manager. The memo amended the law, which was approved Oct. 18 in a 3-2 vote, to not apply to illegal immigrants currently living in rental units under existing lease agreements.

A team of attorneys and civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, had filed a request for a temporary restraining order on behalf of landlords Roy and Mary Garrett, who own more than a dozen properties in the city, and two unnamed residents who fear they would be classified as illegal immigrants and subsequently forced out of rental homes.

Garrett said a wave of fear and confusion has run over the city in the past few weeks. He said he had several inquiries from tenants and a moral concern that the law “was drafted in a fashion compelling landlords to act as police.”

, Michelle Mowad

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