We’ve discussed how the Obama administration, through disparate impact theory, seeks to coerce employers into the assuming the risk of hiring criminals. It does so by arguing that African-Americans are overrepresented among ex-cons, and thus that excluding applicants based on criminal records has a disparate impact on this group.
So far, to my knowledge, this approach has yielded little if any success in court. However, it may well be that some employers have hired criminals it otherwise would have rejected in order to avoid being dragged into court.
Now, the Obama administration will try to coerce landlords into renting to criminals based on the same theory. Yesterday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development warned that it may be discriminatory for landlords to refuse to rent to those with criminal records. Newly issued HUD guidelines state:
The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin, or other protected characteristics. Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African-Americans and Hispanics.
While the Act does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and overbroad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.
The last clause is likely to be rubbish from a legal standpoint. However, landlords are far less equipped than employers to take on bullying federal authorities in court.
The Obama administration: where Team Leniency for Criminals meets Team Dictate Who Lives Where.
Senator Tom Cotton has issued this statement in response to HUD’s warning:
There are no lengths to which this administration won’t go to support convicted criminals. While those who have served their debt to society and completed the rehabilitation process deserve a second chance, it should be not at the expense of law-abiding citizens.
Whether releasing violent felons early from prison, preventing employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal record, or now blocking landlords from deciding whether to rent to someone who may pose a threat to their property and the surrounding community, these policies are part of a disturbing pattern. And they send the wrong message to criminals in Arkansas and across the country.
The United States is a nation of laws—and we should be looking for ways to better protect those who abide by those laws, not reward those who break them.