Fourth Circuit Advances Challenge to Mobile Home Park’s Citizenship Policy

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN ) – The Fourth Circuit on Wednesday said Latino residents of a Virginia mobile home park can proceed with a lawsuit challenging a park policy of requiring them to prove they’re legal U.S. residents before they can move in.

As recounted in the divided court ruling, the Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia requires all residents over the age of 18 to provide documentation of their legal status before renewing their leases. According to the policy, failure to comply may result in eviction.

In a 2-1 ruling on Wednesday, a Fourth Circuit panel decided that the four families who filed the initial case against the mobile home park sufficiently proved  their claims that the policy disparately impacts Latino residents.

This decision overturned a lower court ruling in favor of the park that stated the plaintiffs were not able show a violation of the Fair Housing Act, because the policy not was instituted  ”because of” race or national origin.

In a dissenting opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan said the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit failed to allege facts that satisfied the “robust causality” standard set by the case Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project Inc.

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court specified that particular language in the Fair Housing Act focuses on the consequences of the actions rather than the intent.

In their 2016 complaint, the plaintiffs argued that Latino residents are ten times more likely than non-Latinos to be adversely affected by the policy, because Latinos constitute 64.6 percent of the total undocumented immigrant population in Virginia and undocumented immigrants constitute 36.4 percent of the Latino population.

“By holding that a policy targeting undocumented aliens could violate the FHA based on the policy’s impact on Latinos, the majority in effect extends FHA protection to individuals based on their immigration status, “ Keenan said in the opinion.

Keenan said the defendants should not be held liable for statistical disparities they did not create, adding that immigrants are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act.

“Despite the dissent’s assertions otherwise, our holding does not extend FHA protection to individuals based on immigration status, nor does it even extend FHA protection to these Plaintiffs,” U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd wrote in the majority opinion. “We merely hold that, under these facts, Plaintiffs have satisfied their burden under step one of the burden-shifting framework to make a prima facie showing of disparate impact.”

 

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