FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CR TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 1996 (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued a city in Illinois that enacted and enforced a housing code for the purpose of limiting the number of Hispanic family members who could live in the same home or apartment, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
Under the city ordinance, Waukegan sought to restrict the number of persons related by blood or marriage who could live together in the same home. It permitted only a husband and wife, their children, and no more than two additional relatives to live in a home or apartment, regardless of its size.
The complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago, asserted that city officials, who were aware that Hispanics often reside in extended families, engaged in discriminatory conduct by enacting the family-restrictive rule to limit the number of Hispanics in Waukegan. It stated that city officials repeatedly expressed their animosity toward the new Hispanic residents moving into the city and said they intended to prevent the Hispanics from "taking over" Waukegan.
"No action taken for a discriminatory purpose has any place in our nation," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "If overcrowding is the problem, then place a limit on the number of people living together, not on the type of people."
Today's complaint also alleged that officials, including Donald Weakly, Director of Governmental Services, and Noah Murphy, Building Commissioner, specifically targeted Hispanics when enforcing the ordinance. On numerous occasions, officials ordered Hispanic families to vacate their homes, even though their homes were of sufficient size to accommodate the families. In fact, based on the records the city provided to the Justice Department, the only families forced to vacate their homes were Hispanic.
In June 1994, after experiencing a significant increase in its Hispanic population, Waukegan revised its housing code to include the new restrictive language. Before the provision was enacted, the city was even advised that it may violate the Constitution because of the way it restricts who can live together. Shortly thereafter, and after receiving numerous complaints from Waukegan residents, the Justice Department began investigating the city's housing policies.
For the past eight months, the Justice Department and the city have been engaged in negotiations to resolve the matter. Last week, Waukegan decided to end the negotiations.
"Hispanic families deserve a place to call home just like everyone else," said James B. Burns, U.S. Attorney in Chicago. "The Supreme Court has already said that similar restrictions on the types of family members who can live together violate the Constitution."
Today's complaint seeks a court order preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance and from discriminating on the basis of national origin, and requiring the city to pay damages to the victims of the discriminatory policies and civil penalties to the U.S. Treasury.
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