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Undocumented immigrants may sue under FHA

A federal appeals court has ruled that undocumented immigrants may not necessarily be excluded from bringing housing discrimination claims. Michigan residents might be interested to learn how the court came to that ruling and what impact it might have. The judge who wrote the opinion said that the plaintiffs in the case had presented evidence sufficient to suggest that a requirement that applicants have proof of legal status could be harmful to Latinos as a class. Latinos are a protected class under the Fair Housing Act.

The ruling comes after a district court had dismissed the claims of four families against a mobile home park. The families appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit decided the lower court had made a mistake. The case was sent back down for a determination of whether the policy requiring proof of legal status disproportionately impacts Latinos.

The complaint originally listed six separate counts. It alleged violations of the FHA and state law. The complaint argued that requiring proof of legal status targets undocumented immigrants and that this must also negatively impact Latinos. One of the judges on the appeals court panel sided with the district court, saying that the policy applied equally to all mobile home park occupants. The appeals court vacated the district court rulings, though, saying that policies targeting illegal immigrants do not get an exemption from the FHA.

People who believe they have experienced housing discrimination might want to speak with a lawyer. Some may also have claims related to housing under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lawyer who understands the operation of the FHA and the ADA might be able to help by communicating with the property owner or by drafting and filing a complaint for damages.