Latest Farmers Branch Rental Ordinance Struck Down

NBC-DallasFortWorth, March 25, 2010

A federal judge has ruled that a Farmers Branch ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting apartments is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle of Dallas ruled Wednesday that the ordinance was an attempt to enforce U.S. immigration laws, something only the federal government can do.

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The ordinance established a licensing system for renters in Farmers Branch. Renters would be required to pay a $5 fee and obtain a residential occupancy license issued by the city’s building inspector. Under the system, the building inspector would verify a renter’s immigration status with federal officials if the renter did not declare him or herself a citizen or national of the United States. The city would revoke the licenses of people the federal government said were in the country illegally.

Boyle said in her ruling that the measure uses federal immigration classifications in ways that aren’t authorized or contemplated by federal law.

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The judge also said in her ruling that Ordinance 2952 “directly and substantially” regulates the residence of immigrants in Farmers Branch, which interferes with the uniform enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The city has for years been trying to enforce bans on landlords renting to illegal immigrants. Federal courts have also struck down other versions of the ordinance.

Mayor Tim O’Hare, who supports Ordinance 2952, told The Dallas Morning News that he favors appealing the ruling, but said the City Council would have to vote on that.

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“What is the cost of doing nothing?” he said. “And the cost of doing nothing, it affects your school districts, it affects your shopping centers.”

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