government prosecutes landlord for renting to migrants

The latest volley in the immigration culture war came yesterday from Kentucky:

A jury rejected the federal government's unprecedented prosecution Friday of a Lexington landlord who rented to illegal immigrants, finding him not guilty of 62 criminal counts.

. . .

The case is thought to be the first time that the government has prosecuted a landlord merely for renting to illegal immigrants.

"I'm just relieved," Hadden said after the trial. "I am relieved for all the landlords in the country. This jury saved a lot of landlords from a lot of worries."

Hadden's attorney, Russ Baldani, said the verdict sent a message.

"These are not illegals; they're human beings," Baldani said. "You can't solve immigration problems by choking off basic necessities for people that are here."

Immigration attorneys attending a conference in Vancouver eagerly awaited Friday's verdict, said Lexington lawyer Charles Baesler, who was at the conference.

"The prosecution was essentially seeking to impose on every American business the obligation to verify the immigration status of every customer," Baesler said. "It was far beyond anything the government has attempted elsewhere in America. It's a significant defeat of the prosecution, but it's also a great victory for hard-working business owners who are trying to do the right thing while making a decent living."

At issue was whether Hadden had violated federal harboring and inducing laws by renting to illegal immigrants. The laws, written in 1986, were intended to fight human traffickers and rogue businesses that exploit undocumented workers.

. . .

"If they're going to use a 1986 statute, and all of a sudden in 2008 say we're going to use this to say you can't rent to undocumented aliens, then they need to let the landlords and apartment owners of America know that," Richardson said. "This is a country built on fairness, and this wasn't a fair prosecution."

This prosecution was one part of the government's effort to turn each business person, each consumer, each citizen into an enforcer of the immigration laws.  Under this scenario, failure to cooperate with the government's directives would lead to criminal penalties for citizens.  We've seen this in some states like Oklahoma already, where U.S. citizens can be arrested and prosecuted for giving undocumented migrants a ride.  This is one small part of this administration's effort to expand federal law enforcement into every arena of public life, to fuse domestic law enforcement with international military efforts, and to demand from each citizen loyalty not only to nation, but to particular political objectives veiled as national security initiatives.

Hadden's acquittal is a step back from the abyss, a step towards sanity.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on July 1, 2008 8:04 AM.

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