Official hostility towards immigrants is also expressed in evictions

During the COVID-19 pandemic, between 2019 and 2022, as in any historical crisis, the deep social, economic, cultural and political differences that afflict American society were revealed. The partisan division reached paroxysms with the emergence of the party of Ignorance and Cruelty, with its rejection of vaccines, treatments and the very recognition that COVID existed.

Unfortunately, extremism has only taken on new forms and exacerbated since then.

Behind the political dance was the continuous economic crisis from which millions of residents of our country suffered, who went from poor to extremely poor, at the mercy of public charity and the aid that came from governments.

Of all the groups, undocumented immigrants were at the bottom of the apricot jar.

The term “The bottom of the dried apricot jar”, Artificial Intelligence tells me, refers to “a person or thing that is insignificant or that does not count for anything”, exists only in the Río de la Plata – in Argentina and Uruguay. I take it from there. But the allusion is understood: at the bottom of the social scale, of aid priorities, of public attention, of multimillion-dollar projects, are the undocumented, the undocumented. But they are ahead when it comes to hostility, repression, demonization and deportation.

There exists in the country and particularly in California a little discussed level of discrimination against undocumented renters, with evictions from homes in unsanitary conditions, pigsties for which they still have to pay and where they live in overcrowded conditions… and from where they are evicted when they do not pay. An abuse for which there are no official statistics.

Data from the Eviction Lab, a study center on evictions and housing at Princeton University, says that each year 2.7 million families are forced to leave their home due to eviction.

The number plummeted during the pandemic, because, as will be remembered, eviction moratoriums were decreed. Although they benefited those who could not pay the monthly payment on their home, the moratoriums especially harmed small owners of one to four rental units, who had to continue paying mortgages, taxes and maintenance expenses without receiving a penny in tenants who could now not pay if they did not want to, simply by brandishing a COVID-19 economic impact statement sent in writing to the tenant.

When the pandemic officially ended, eviction prohibitions also ended. “Landlords,” says Eviction Lab in its study of the country’s 25 main cities, “have initiated at least one million eviction processes, an increase of 79% since 2021,” in just over a year.

At the end of the emergency, it was estimated that there were 252,680 families in Los Angeles County with back rent, who owed – owed – a total of 665,000 million dollars. In those families there are 166,700 children. The debt for each family is an average of about $2,600.

Protections ended on August 1, 2023 following the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the federal emergency eviction moratorium. When it was announced here in Los Angeles, a grim outlook was predicted for families thrown onto the streets “if they fell behind on rent payments due to the pandemic, between March 2020 and September 2021.”

More than a million eviction cases in seven months. The number is of an extraordinary magnitude, which shows the complete failure of the official policy of supposedly preventing them.

It is an artificially created crisis that made not paying rent almost the norm, especially for those who even before COVID had trouble doing so.

Government help

We do not have numbers of undocumented immigrants who ended up on the streets. In any case, local governments in the state organized to provide all kinds of help. The city of Los Angeles established the Housing website and telephone number (866) 557-7368 to request advice.

Between Los Angeles County, the city and legal and community service providers established the Stay House L.A. partnership. or SHLA,  As the name implies, is dedicated to providing information and resources to keep people in their homes. Especially information. Thus, the state court system released a 175-page document called “California Tenant’s Guide.”

Much of the help has been limited to creating a bridge of understanding between corporations, plaintiff attorneys, and immigration and law enforcement agencies and the families of Latino immigrants, many of whom speak little English (in some cases they don’t even speak Spanish).

The Los Angeles County Office of Immigrant Affairs also provided similar assistance, publishing maps of help centers for immigrants on housing issues.

At the state level, the Housing Is Key portal “provides information about tenant rights, how to obtain legal assistance and other frequently asked questions related to rent delays due to the pandemic.”

The state’s activity in helping tenants – not necessarily immigrants, or recent immigrants – also includes a law that places certain conditions on the right of the owners to claim that they want to move into the homes or make renovations as a trick to be able to evacuate the tenants. and rent the properties again at higher prices. Governor Gavin Newsom signed it on October 1.

Finally, at the national level, according to the National Equity Atlas, there are today almost six million households behind on rent, including some seven million children.

Here the information is a little more detailed because it divides by race and ethnicity those who suffer from “housing insecurity” – that is, not knowing if they will have a home tomorrow. Among whites it is 32%. For Native Americans, 41%, then for Latinos 45% and African Americans lead at 48%. Practically half of the community.

Among arrears renters, 65% did not use their right to request federal aid. 11% received, 10% are still waiting and 13% of orders were rejected.

Latino immigrant families are especially vulnerable in this crisis and their situation is getting worse. Federal and state governments must intervene to fulfill their duty, which is to ensure the well-being of the general population.

This article was supported in whole, or in part, by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative


  • Gabriel Lerner

    Founder and co-editor of Latino Los Angeles. Editor Emeritus of La Opinion, former Editor-in-Chief. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a journalist, columnist, blogger, poet, novelist, and short story writer. Was the editorial director of Huffington Post Voces. Editor-in-chief of the weekly Tiempo in Israel. Is the father of three grown children and lives with Celia and with Rosie, Almendra and Yinyit in Los Angeles.

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