Discrimination Suit Revived Against Mobile Home Park

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 18, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal appeals court opened the door for Latino residents to sue their mobile home park for requiring them to prove they are legal residents.

In Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged the park discriminated against Latinos. The appeals panel vacated a trial court decision to dismiss the case.

However, the battle is far from over. It's not quite an episode of "Trailer Park Wars," but there was a strong dissent.

"Robust Causality"

Judge Barbara Milano Keenan said the majority elevated immigrants to the level of a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. She said the plaintiffs did not meet the "robust causality" standard of case law under the Act.

"By holding that a policy targeting undocumented aliens could violate the FHA based on the policy's impact on Latinos, the majority in effect extends FHA protection to individuals based on their immigration status," she wrote.

Writing for the 2-1 majority, Judge Henry Floyd said that's not what they said.

"Despite the dissent's assertions otherwise, our holding does not extend FHA protection to individuals based on immigration status, nor does it even extend FHA protection to these Plaintiffs," Floyd wrote in the majority opinion.

"Disparate Impact"

Floyd said the Latino residents satisfied their burden to make a prima facie showing of disparate impact.

In the 2016 complaint, they said Latinos are ten times more likely to be adversely affected by the park policy requiring residents to prove their legal status. According to reports, more than a third of undocumented immigrants in Virginia are Latinos.

The dissent said statistical disparities should not govern the outcome of the case. The Fourth Circuit remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

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