by ELLIOT SPAGAT
Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO — A federal judge temporarily blocked the city of Escondido on Thursday from enforcing a law that punishes landlords for renting to illegal immigrants.
U.S. District Judge John Houston said that he had serious questions about whether the law would survive legal scrutiny and that it may inflict "irreparable harm" on tenants and landlords.
The law had been scheduled to take effect Friday in the suburb 30 miles north of San Diego, where Hispanics make up 42 percent of the 142,000 residents.
Houston did not say how long his order would last, but said he would schedule a hearing within four months.
The lawsuit was filed this month on behalf of two Escondido landlords and two women who live in the country illegally but whose children are U.S. citizens and attend school in the city. The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged the law illegally punishes landlords.
One of the landlords, Roy Garrett, welcomed the decision.
"(Illegal immigrants) are there, it's reality, it is immoral to force them to leave," Garrett said.
An attorney for the city declined to comment.
The City Council voted 3-2 last month to require landlords to submit documentation of their tenants' immigration status to the city, which would then verify that information with the federal government.
If tenants are found to be illegal immigrants, landlords would be given 10 days to evict them or face suspension of their business licenses. Repeat offenders could face misdemeanor charges and fines.
Last month, the ACLU persuaded a federal judge to temporarily block the city of Hazleton, Pa., from enforcing a crackdown on illegal immigrants. More than 50 municipalities nationwide have considered, passed or rejected laws to crack down on illegal immigration.
November 16, 2006 - 10:45 p.m. CST
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