Third Strike Against|Farmers Branch, Texas

     DALLAS (CN) – For the third time, a judge has ruled that Farmers Branch, Texas, violated the Constitution by enacting an ordinance that banned undocumented immigrants from renting apartments in the city, and barred landlords from renting to them.

     U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle said the ordinance was an attempt to enforce federal immigration laws, which only the federal government can do.
“Ordinance 2952 is a regulation of immigration and is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because the authority to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power,” Boyle wrote. “The ordinance applies federal immigration classifications for purposes not authorized or contemplated by federal law. As a result, the ordinance creates an additional restriction on alien residence in the city.”
It was the city’s third effort to drive Latinos out of town. The plaintiffs – apartment owners and tenants – called it racial discrimination. The city claimed it was an effort to support federal immigration law and to address the secondary effects of illegal immigration.
     The ruling was praised by Lisa Graybill, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
     “The court’s opinion confirms what we have known from the beginning of this fight, back in November 2006 – that Farmers Branch’s effort to legislate in the realm of immigration is a quixotic attempt to circumvent federal law and clearly established precedent,” Graybill said.
     “With this third strike, hopefully the City of Farmers Branch will get out of the immigration enforcement business and move on to address its municipal obligations through more constructive and constitutional local policies.”
     The city’s first failed effort, in 2006, sought to regulate rental housing by requiring evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status for each tenant family. Ordinance 2892 also incorporated the HUD classification system on eligibility of non-citizens for housing assistance. Implementation was enjoined on Jan. 9, 2007 due to concerns relating to the Texas Open Meetings Act.
     The city responded with its second law, Ordinance 2903, which repealed Ordinance 2892 but imposed substantially similar requirements for residential rentals and called for Farmers Branch residents to vote on the measure. City voters approved it by a 2-to-1 margin on May 12, 2007.
     U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay temporarily enjoined enforcement on May 21, 2007 and permanently enjoined it on May 28, 2008, ruling that was a regulation of immigration that is invalidated by the Supremacy Clause and that it violated due process rights of the 14th Amendment and was void for vagueness.

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