On September 15, 2022, Relman Colfax filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of a coalition of civil rights organizations and non-profit housing providers in support of the Plaintiffs–Appellants in Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park (No. 22-1660). The case alleges discrimination claims on behalf of four Latino immigrant families who were forced from their homes when their landlord began enforcing a policy requiring all adult residents to provide documentation of legal immigration status. They allege that this policy has an unlawful disparate impact based on national origin in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The Fourth Circuit held in a prior appeal that Plaintiffs–Appellants had established a prima facie case of disparate impact. See Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park Ltd. P’ship, 903 F.3d 415 (4th Cir. 2018).

The current appeal challenges the trial court’s subsequent grant of summary judgment to the landlord, reasoning that it had shown a “business necessity” for implementing and enforcing the policy. This holding was based on the court’s dubious assumption that if landlords who fail to affirmatively screen the immigration status of tenants may face liability for “harboring” under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”).

The amicus brief highlights two fundamental errors in the district court’s analysis. First, it ignored a clear dispute of material fact as to whether the proffered interest in avoiding criminal liability was a genuine interest of the landlord. Second, the brief details how the district court erred by adopting an expansive interpretation of the proscription of “harboring” individuals without legal status—an interpretation that would criminalize a broad swath of everyday activities and that is without precedential support. Finally, the brief explains how the district court’s interpretation of IRCA could disrupt the operations of housing providers and potentially increase housing insecurity throughout the Circuit by pushing housing providers to become experts in federal immigration law.

Joining this brief are the National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Equal Rights Center, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, and the Piedmont Housing Alliance. Click here to review the brief.

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