Landlord sued for threatening to turn tenant in to immigration authorities

A Peninsula resident sued her former Burlingame landlord in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday, alleging the landlord illegally threatened to report her to immigration authorities during an eviction dispute.

The civil rights lawsuit by Estela Cano, who is of Mexican descent, against apartment owner Melinda Teruel claims discrimination on the basis of perceived immigration status and on the basis of national origin.

Federal civil rights law forbids discrimination based on national origin, among other categories, while California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act specifically forbids bias based on immigration status as well as national origin.

The lawsuit cites both federal and state laws.

Cano lived with her adult son and minor daughter in a one-bedroom Burlingame apartment owned by Teruel from 2011 to 2017, under a lease agreement that limited occupation of the unit to no more than three people, according to the lawsuit.

Beginning in early 2017, Teruel began telling Cano the apartment was too small for her family, and she sought to evict Cano in August of that year, the lawsuit says. Cano moved to an apartment in Belmont in September.

During the dispute, the lawsuit contends, Teruel made several threats to report Cano to federal immigration authorities. Teruel allegedly said in one voicemail, “Your file is now going to immigration and IRS … You can be deported.”

She allegedly said in a text message, “If you want to leave with Immigration behind you — you cannot sanctuary in my building!!!”

Araceli Martinez-Olguin, a lawyer for Cano, declined to disclose her client’s actual immigration status, saying that it is not relevant, as opposed to the landlord’s perception of her status.

“Immigrants have civil rights regardless of what their status is. I’m please to work with someone like Estela Cano who has the courage to stand up for her rights,” the attorney said.

Cano said in a statement, “What happened to me is unjust and I want to prevent other immigrants from experiencing the same kind of harassment and discrimination.”

Teruel could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit seeks a compensatory and punitive financial award and an injunction requiring the landlord to provide equal housing opportunities to all tenants and prospective tenants.

-Julie Cheever, Bay City News

Bay City News
Published by
Bay City News

Recent Posts

Striking Boston Marriott workers reach tentative agreement, negotiations continue in San Francisco

Some 1,500 striking Marriott hotel workers in Boston, Mass. have reached a tentative agreement in contract negotiations with the hotel…

5 mins ago

Nov. 18-20: Disney Junior Dance Party on Tour, End of Life Resource Fair, Castle in the Sky, Marion Nestle, Sonics, Esperanza Spalding, Bandstand, Volti and Left Coast Ensemble, Good Charlotte, Thanks to Hank

SUNDAY, NOV. 18 Disney Junior Dance Party on Tour: The 90-minute interactive concert experience for kids and families features live…

31 mins ago

SF Preps: San Francisco Section postpones football semifinals to Thanksgiving Week

The smoke and ash from the Camp fire in Butte County continues to impact local high school sports in the…

2 hours ago

In first hearing to appeal SF scooter permit loss, Spin alleges ‘biased’ process

Scooter company Spin lost its bid to operate in San Francisco but now it’s trying to spin that decision around.…

16 hours ago

California fires: Death toll in Paradise rises to 71; more than 1,000 unaccounted for

The death toll from California’s worst fire rose to 71 on Friday, with more than 1,000 people still unaccounted for.…

16 hours ago

SF residents urged to stay indoors, avoid smoky air

As poor air quality persists throughout the Bay Area from the Camp Fire in Butte County--the deadliest fire in California's…

19 hours ago