Don’t Let A Little Thing Like the Constitution Get in Your Way

Ah, is there another culture more persistent?

The city of Farmers Branch, Texas has been doing their best to find a way to get rid of all the Mexicans in town. Every time they come up with something creatively designed to get around the well-known interpretation of declaring immigration law the domain of the federal government, some judge ends up telling them its unconstitutional. Rest easy; they will continue their fight in the courts.

Here’s to representing a living, breathing, municipal contradiction.  Say its about law and order, even if you consistently find a solution that is illegal.

You can access the full story (with a handy timeline) from last weekend’s Dallas Morning News:

Judge halts Farmers Branch’s immigrant rental ban; restraining order issued

11:38 AM CDT on Saturday, September 13, 2008
By STEPHANIE SANDOVAL/ The Dallas Morning News

So far, the third time is not the charm for Farmers Branch.

U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle issued a temporary restraining order today barring the city from implementing its latest ordinance aimed at halting property rentals to illegal immigrants.

Under the new measure, which the city had planned to put into effect Monday, apartment and home renters would have to obtain a city occupancy license by stating that they were U.S. citizens or were in the country legally.

The city would then check the information from non-citizens against a federal database to confirm that they were here legally. If not, their license would be revoked and they would be evicted.

The city had planned to start requiring the licenses Monday even though the checks would have had to wait because it has yet to receive permission to use the federal database.

The judge’s order blocks implementation while the court fight continues.

Mayor Tim O’Hare said he wasn’t surprised at the judge’s decision, though he thought it was wrong.

“I think the will of the people of Farmers Branch is not being carried out,” he said. “I think you’ll ultimately see this matter resolve by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former City Council member Junie Smith, one of the plaintiffs fighting the city’s measure, had a far different reaction.

“Tell the world I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I’m doing cartwheels down the hall.”

The request for a restraining order was part of a lawsuit by Ms. Smith and three apartment complexes in Farmers Branch. They contend that the law discriminates against Hispanics, would prevent some immigrants who are here legally from being able to rent in the city, and is unconstitutional. The city counters that the measure is aimed at lawbreakers, not any ethnic group.


A chronology of Farmers Branch’s efforts to ban housing rentals to illegal immigrants:

Nov. 13, 2006: The City Council unanimously adopts an ordinance requiring apartment managers to document that new tenants are in the U.S. legally.

Dec. 13, 2006: A grass-roots group turns in petitions with enough signatures to force repeal or an election on the ordinance.

Jan. 22, 2007: The City Council repeals the ordinance and plans an election on a similar version.

May 12, 2007: Voters overwhelmingly approve the new measure, Ordinance 2903.

June 19, 2007: U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay blocks implementation until a court challenge can be resolved.

Jan. 22, 2008: The City Council adopts a substitute, Ordinance 2952, tailored to address legal challenges to 2903 while covering rent houses in addition to apartments.

Aug. 29, 2008: Judge Lindsay issues a final ruling against Ordinance 2903, triggering a 15-day city countdown toward implementation of Ordinance 2952 on Saturday. (The city planned to delay until Monday because of the weekend.)

Sept. 3, 2008: Three apartment complexes and a former City Council member sue in federal court, seeking to block the new ordinance.

Sept. 12, 2008: A federal judge blocks implementation.


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