Anti-Immigrant Ordinances: Farmers Branch, Texas
In December 2006, civil rights groups filed suit in Dallas federal district court challenging the city of Farmers Branch's recently-adopted anti-immigrant housing ordinance.
The law runs afoul of federal immigration law and attempts to place landlords in the untenable position of acting as federal immigration officers, asking them to document the “eligible” immigration status of all tenants prior to occupancy.The complaint also contends that the ordinance is so vague and poorly drafted that it excludes even some authorized immigrants from renting in Farmers Branch apartment complexes, and lacks clear guidelines as to what constitutes legal immigration status.Landlords are subject to fines of as much as $500 for every day they are found in violation of the law.
The city council members of the Dallas suburb who originally drafted and adopted the law behind closed doors blame rising unemployment and declines in the quality of public education, property values, and public health care on undocumented residents. The mayor of Farmers Branch, Bob Phelps, refutes these claims, and opposes the ordinance.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas; the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Weil, Gotschal and Manges; and Cagle and Broiles filed suit on behalf of Farmers Branch residents and landlords challenging the city'sordinance, finding it in violation of the Constitution's Supremacy and Contract clauses, the 14th Amendment's equal protection and due process clauses, the First Amendment, and the Fair Housing Act. District Court Bruce Priddy entered a stipulated order delaying enforcement of the ordinance on January 11.
The City Council decided to repeal the housing ordinance and replace it with a new ordinance that contains many similar restrictions on immigrants' access to housing. That ordinance will only go into effect if voters approve a ballot initiative on the ordinance during a special election on May 22, 2007. An amended complaint challenging the new ordinance on was filed on March 22, 2007. After a public referendum approving the ordinance, plaintiffs successfully secured a temporary restraining order on May 21, 2007, enjoining all enforcement. The litigation is ongoing.