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Papers or Your Property!

November 13, 2014

The 1990 movie, The Hunt for Red October, has a poignant scene in which the Soviet submarine captain and his second-in-command contemplate what they will do once they defect to America.

The second-in-command speculates that he might get an RV and drive from state to state. They let you do that, don’t they? he asks, and the captain agrees. No papers? No papers, says the captain.

The movie came out contemporaneously with the collapse of the Soviet empire, and I have to admit being exceedingly proud of that dialogue at the time. No papers? Nope, heck no, not in these United States, not even with a Russian accent during the Cold War.

Now it seems that Arizona is increasingly the kind of state that says Papers, please. A bill currently being considered would require landlords to determine the immigration status of prospective tenants. If landlords don’t procure the right papers from their tenants, they could potentially lose their property.

Having been both a tenant and a landlord, I can tell you that landlords ask for lots of information, checking references, credit ratings, and bank balances. Landlords take enough risk allowing others to use their property. They certainly do not need their government becoming an adversary that can confiscate their property for improper tenant ID.

We must be careful that when trying to address one problem, we don’t create others. Requiring landlords to do the job of the federal, state, and local governments is a move fundamentally in the wrong direction.

Dr. Byron Schlomach is the director of the center for economic prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn More:

Arizona Daily Star: Illegal-immigrant push adds landlords

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania: Lozano v. City of Hazelton

Arizona House of Representatives: HB 2625



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