Dianne Solis, Dallas Morning News, Mar. 21, 2012: "A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that a
Farmers Branch ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting in the
The decision by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
New Orleans Wednesday echoed a lower court ruling that the power to
control immigration rests only with the federal government — not states
“This is a national problem, needing a national
solution. And it impacts the nation’s relations with Mexico and other
nations,” the decision said.
The appeals court judges said that
the ordinance was more than a housing regulation and was “designed to
burden aliens, both documented and undocumented, in Farmers Branch. As
such, the ordinance serves no legitimate city interest.”
Farmers Branch Mayor Bill Glancy said he hadn’t read the decision, or spoken to the city’s outside lawyers about it.
But he said, “I have supported our stance on illegal immigration because I feel something must be done.”
said he couldn’t say whether the city would appeal to the U.S. Supreme
Court — something former mayor Tim O’Hare vowed the city would do.
So far, the city has spent more than $4 million on legal fees fighting for the ordinance.
said the city has tried to help immigrants by offering English classes
and a citizenship class in the city’s library but said few residents
have taken the classes.
“The federal courts have made
clear that cities cannot make their own immigration laws and target
residents for expulsion simply because of their race or nationality,”
Perales, who argued the case before the Fifth Circuit.
Brewer III, another attorney who challenged the city's ordinances, said
the opinion makes it “clear that this ordinance was intended to
discriminate against Hispanics.”
“The decision makes clear what we
have contended all along — that the ordinance is unconstitutional and
that the city is attempting to interfere in an area that is clearly the
province of the federal government,” said Brewer, a partner at Bickel
& Brewer Storefront in Dallas.
Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said that Farmers Branch should end its expensive legal fight.
“It is time for Farmers Branch to give up its mean-spirited and quixotic efforts to do the federal government’s job,” she said.
The legislation includes rental ordinances, business licenses and expanding policing authority of local law enforcement.
“This opinion begs for further review,” he said, adding he hasn’t been told whether city officials want to appeal
fight over illegal immigration in Farmers Branch began in 2006, when
the first ordinance was proposed that would require renters to prove
they are legal U.S. residents. O’Hare, who was a council member at the
time, was the driving force behind the measure.
ordinance was approved, voters in the city of 30,000 have continued to
elect candidates who supported it. In 2007, voters overwhelmingly
approved a referendum backing the ordinance.
But the two versions of the ordinance were both struck down by federal judges, who also barred the city from enforcing them.
The appeals court noted other attempts to regulate illegal immigration in Arizona, Alabama and in Hazleton, Pa.
increasing treatment — some might say mistreatment — of illegal
immigrants around the country only reinforces what the Supreme Court has
said in explaining why a national policy on immigration unimpeded by
the whims of the various states is paramount,” said the decision,
written by Judge Thomas Reavley.
In a partial dissent, Judge
Jennifer Elrod said her colleagues asked and answered the wrong
question. She said the panel should have decided whether the power to
regulate rental housing is power of local government.
mentioned a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that upheld a 2007
immigration law in Arizona. That law — different from another sweeping
Arizona bill passed in 2010 — focused on the suspension or revocation of
business licenses of employers who were found to knowingly hire workers
in the U.S. illegally.
Fewer immigration laws have gone after
employers and their business licenses. Nor did the ordinance in Farmers
Branch, where businesses provide about three-fourths of city tax
Judge Elrod did agree with the other judges that the Farmers Branch ordinance went beyond what was approved in the Arizona case."