Monthly Archives: August 2017

Should We Believe Assurances That ICE Won’t Arrest Undocumented Immigrants Fleeing Hurricane Harvey?

Commentators have been understandably worried for non-citizens battling flooding and other problems caused by Hurricane Harvey, which hit the coast of Texas on August 25, 2017.

Not only is their basic safety at risk, but there’s the matter of the new immigration enforcement priorities under the Trump administration.

This really means no priorities at all, but an environment in which anyone who encounters Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP), regardless of their close ties to the U.S. and past agreements that they were law-abiding and not a priority for deportation (including with DACA grants), are fair game for deportation.

Non-citizens have been arrested while at their most vulnerable: for example, when appearing in court to testify to domestic violence, when leaving hypothermia shelters, and when attending check-in interviews at ICE offices.

But now, in response to these concerns, FEMA has issued a statement assuring the public that, “Routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks.”

That’s welcome news, at least compared with other possible things the statement could have said. But it’s also not entirely reassuring, because it leaves open the door to “criminal” enforcement operations.

As anyone who’s following the new enforcement environment knows, Trump had originally assured the public that ICE priorities would focus on criminals or “bad hombres,” then proceeded to define anyone who had crossed the U.S. border illegally as a criminal.

In this situation, the climate of fear that’s been created could end up costing human lives. And it also makes it far to easy for scammers to prey on the immigrant community; including the recently reported fake ICE agents that have been banging on doors and ordering people to evacuate (presumably in order to steal their stuff).

If Friendly Neighbors Are So Important, Why Not Ask About Them When Buying?

An impressive 50% of prospective homebuyers say their top priority when it comes to neighborhood features is having friendly neighbors, says a recent Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homeowner Sentiment Survey.

This feature ranked higher for survey respondents than school district (at 41%), financial considerations (39%), and perceived investment value (37%).

The results reflect well on the common sense of today’s homebuyers. After all, a difficult or hostile neighbor can impact your personal financial considerations (for instance, if you get into a dispute over something like who pays for a damaged fence, and end up bringing or facing a lawsuit).

And a difficult neighbor can impact your home’s investment value, if a major issue makes the house harder to sell (“Pay no attention to that 12-foot spite fence, we’re suing the neighbor to take it down, tempted though we are to take a chainsaw to it.”)

At least neighbor problems don’t typically bring down an entire school district. But they can make life miserable, in the very place where you want to feel safe and relaxed.

But the question remains, why do so few people ask probing questions about a house’s neighbors before they buy? I can only report anecdotally, but as someone who visits open houses regularly, has sold a house that brought in multiple offers, and regularly talks to people about real estate, it seems that the matter of neighbor relations is often left for a post-closing surprise.

Real estate agents certainly know how important the neighbor issue is. I recently visited an open house at the property next to mine, introduced myself and was told by the agent, “Oh good! I can tell people I’ve met the neighbor!” (I guess the subtext was that I looked normal, phew.)

You now know why we included neighbor issues on the “Questions for Seller” worksheet that’s included in Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home. You can certainly get specific in your questioning, too, as in, “We notice the house across the street has five motorcycles parked on the front lawn. Has that led to issues with noise or anything?”

And there’s no need to stop with questions to the home seller. Try asking local friends for information, particularly those who follow any neighborhood listservs. They might tell you who the local “trolls” are, and know about other neighbor issues, disputes, or subjects of tension.

Also, as you go in and out of open houses, ask people on the street how they like living there, and how friendly the neighborhood generally. If you’re lucky enough to spot one of your prospective new home’s neighbors outdoors, perhaps weeding or walking the dog, definitely engage that person in conversation. You may be surprised at what you find out.