by Andrew Piotrowski
There can be a clear distinction made between the number and severity of problems faced by documented immigrants and those who reside in this country without proper documentation. Although not given all the same rights as legal citizens, immigrants that have a green card will not face the same worry of deportation on a daily basis. Not only that, but undocumented workers are severely limited in their options for many necessities of life. Lack of a real social security number or any other proof of legal residence makes the purchases of cars or the rentals of houses and apartments much more risky, and limits a family’s available choices beyond simple financial issues. As I sat waiting for the phone to ring at ECIRMAC a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the center director, Guadalupe Abreu, and a freelance reporter with the Champaign News-Gazette. The topic was [...] a father-and-son landlord team renting apartments in Champaign.
After having listened to the conversation, I decided that I should do some more research on these individuals to increase my own knowledge on the subject. A quick search in the Champaign News-Gazette database turns up several articles on the [...] family business: citations for the rental of condemned housing units, as well as common complaints about utilities shut-offs for refusing to pay the bills. The utilities are paid directly by the [...] family which forces the tenants to provide their landlords with these payments, based on whatever price the family tells them. When the utilities are shut off for lack of payment, one wonders where the money given by these trusting tenants may have gone. The family has appeared in court, and according to the News-Gazette was fined $15,345 last year for the rental of condemned units.
Because the clientele of migrants that the two landlords normally rent apartments to do not usually have many options and are in need of any simple living space, the apartments they rent are constantly in disrepair and much-less-than-optimal condition. Tenants often do not want to risk public complaints for fear of being discovered by the people they are trying to avoid. Immigrant families cannot expect to be living in a space even remotely resembling the white picket fences and aluminum siding houses they dream of. Not only that, but they are much more vulnerable to exploitation, as the examples of [these landlords] have proven. One thing to consider is this: Even though being born in this country doesn’t automatically grant you a house, it surely grants you the opportunity not to be subjected to such treatment and living conditions, which is more than a good part of the immigrant community can say for itself.