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Schuylkill County News

Meuser Bill Makes Migrant Squatting a Deportable Offense

Recent cases involving migrant squatters inspires legislation.

US Rep. Dan Meuser (PA-9) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that he says will make squatting by illegal immigrants a deportable offense.

HR 7959 is also known as the SHIELD Act (Safeguarding Homes from Illegal Entry, Living, and Dwelling). 

Meuser says the bill is inspired by the recent number of reports of illegal immigrants found squatting in US homes. He says a TikTok user from Venezuela posted a video encouraging other migrants to take advantage of adverse possession laws in the US. 

Last week, officials with US Homeland Security arrested 8 illegal immigrants on gun and drug possession charges after they were found squatting at a home in Bronx, NY. Three other migrants wre found squatting at another home in the Bronx, Meuser says in a statement.

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Fox New York reports 6 those 8 migrants arrested on the gun and drug charges were released without bail:

“The dramatic increase in the number of illegal immigrants squatting in American homes is yet another example of how the disastrous situation at our southern border is impacting communities across the country,” Meuser says. “This legislation will serve as a deterrent to illegal aliens contemplating violating the homes and properties of American citizens.”

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is a legal concept that might seem strange at first: it allows a trespasser to gain legal ownership of land they do not originally own, under certain conditions. This can occur without the original owner’s permission and sometimes even without their knowledge. Let’s break down this concept into simpler terms.

Understanding Adverse Possession

Here are key terms as they relate to adverse possession laws:

1. Hostile Possession: This doesn’t mean aggression or violence. In legal terms, “hostile” means the trespasser occupies the land without the permission of the owner. This is the foundational aspect of adverse possession; the trespasser must use the land as if they are the owner.

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2. Actual Possession: The trespasser must physically use the land. This could be by building on it, farming it, or making significant changes to its appearance and function.

3. Open and Notorious: The trespasser’s use of the land must be visible and obvious to anyone. If the trespasser hides their occupancy, it doesn’t count. The idea here is that the true owner has a chance to notice the trespass and take action if they choose.

4. Exclusive and Continuous: The trespasser must use the land exclusively (not sharing it with the real owner or others) and continuously for a specific period of time, which varies by state. This isn’t a weekend visit—it’s a consistent, unbroken period of occupancy.

5. Time Period: Each state has a specific time requirement for how long the trespasser must occupy the land before they can claim ownership. This period can be anywhere from 5 to 30 years, depending on the state.

How a Person Could Lose Their Property in Pennsylvania from Adverse Possession Laws

In Pennsylvania, the rules are specific. To potentially lose your property to an adverse possessor (the trespasser), they must occupy your land under the conditions mentioned above—hostile, actual, open and notorious, exclusive, and continuous occupation. Specifically for Pennsylvania:

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  • General Requirement: The trespasser must continuously possess the property for 21 years.
  • Exception for Single-Family Homes: For single-family homes on parcels less than 0.5 acres, the required period is reduced to 10 years.

If during these periods, the landowner does not take legal action to remove the trespasser or challenge their occupancy, the trespasser can potentially gain legal title to the property. This means they would legally become the new owner of the land, and the original owner could lose their rights to it.

For a landowner, preventing adverse possession is about monitoring your property, ensuring no one occupies it without your permission, and taking swift legal action if you discover someone is trespassing and using your land without consent. If you own property and are concerned about this, consulting with a real estate attorney can provide guidance tailored to your situation and local laws.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tootsie

    April 14, 2024 at 8:15 am

    Excellent article, Canary! Schuylkill County residents, we need to keep our eyes open and pay attention to activities in our neighborhoods and communities. See something, say something.

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