Sudden New Respect for Property Rights - When It Comes to Protecting Illegals

The Times' editorial page was one of the few to support the Supreme Court's June 2005 ruling (Kelo vs. New London) upholding the power of local governments to seize private property for the benefit of private businesses. But when it comes to protecting illegal immigrants, they have recently discover sudden new respect for property rights, as shown by two recent articles.

Texas-based correspondent Ralph Blumenthal's "In Texas, Weighing Life With a Fence" found an outcry among property owners against a security fence on the Texas-Mexico border.

"Rafael Garza, a former mayor of this small border city, stood steps from the back door of his simple brick house and chopped the air with a hand. 'This is where the actual fence would be,' he said.

"And the federal property line, he said, would be at his shower.

"Mr. Garza, 36, a Hidalgo County sheriff's sergeant who traces his family here to 1767, was imagining what life would be like in the shadow of the Proposed Tactical Infrastructure - the wall, to many outraged South Texans - that the Department of Homeland Security has committed to build by the end of the year.

"Although federal officials say its location and design are still in flux, official maps of the Texas third of the 370-mile intermittent pedestrian barrier from Brownsville to California have provoked widespread alarm among property owners fearful of being cut off from parts of their own land or access to the Rio Grande for livestock and crops.

"In the Rio Grande Valley last week, yards were plastered with signs demanding 'No border wall,' raising the prospect of a protracted legal, if not physical, standoff, although Congress has recently taken steps to review the original plan. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is under fire from some fellow Republicans for amendments to a financing bill last month that they say scale back the fence."

In another instance of the Times showing strange new respect for private property, it even (sort of) defended Long Island landlords. From Tuesday's Metro story by Corey Kilgannon, "Crackdown on L.I. Landlords Is Criticized as Harassment of Immigrants":

"The officers showed up at 6 a.m. at the four connected apartments on Old Country Road.

"They went from bedroom to bedroom, waking children and photographing the premises and the residents, who all were Latino immigrants, of varying legal status.

"'They asked everyone for their papers and we did not know why,' said Marco Yat, 40, a Guatemalan who lives in one of the apartments with his wife and three young children. 'The children were scared.'

"Thirteen Guatemalan passports were confiscated. But while the Oct. 30 raid may have seemed like an immigration raid to the residents, it turned out to be a building inspection, conducted by code enforcement officers and police officers from the Town of Southampton, which includes Westhampton.

"And within hours, the occupants of three of the units - more than a dozen people - had packed up and moved out, because they suspected that the inspectors were more interested in their immigration status than in broken smoke detectors and certificates of occupancy, said Mr. Yat, a construction worker who remained, he said, because he and his family are United States citizens.

"Several notices of violations were issued to the landlord. The citations and other details of the inspection were posted on the town's Web site, along with those of other inspections carried out 'to identify and crack down on unsafe and overcrowded living conditions within Southampton Town.'


"The new policy has become the latest controversy involving illegal immigrants in Suffolk County, where the county executive, Steve Levy, has won broad public approval and national attention for his aggressive campaign against illegal immigration.

"In Southampton, gatherings of day laborers near the village are regularly picketed by some local residents, and a proposal to have the workers assemble at hiring spots, to diminish loitering along roadways, was blocked by opponents who charged that it amounted to condoning the hiring of illegal immigrants.

"The predawn building inspections were criticized by Dianne Rulnick, co-chairwoman of the town's Anti-Bias Task Force, a coalition of community leaders that advises the town board."

Kilgannon lets left-wing activist Rulnick relay irrational talking points:

"'These inspections are being conducted as raids, with the strong-arm tactics of border control agents, and they've polarized the town and put terrible fear into this community,' Ms. Rulnick said.

"'Of eight houses that have been inspected, seven of them were occupied by Latinos,' she said.

"She added that many of the inspections badly frightened children in the houses. 'They are undergoing psychological counseling,' Ms. Rulnick said. 'They don't want to go out of the house, don't want to go to school.'"