Yesterday the courts dealt another blow against the disturbing trend of cities, towns and counties across the country attempting to enact unconstitutional anti-immigrant ordinances. On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued an order permanently preventing the City of Farmers Branch, Texas, from enforcing its discriminatory anti-immigrant housing ordinance. The ordinance prohibited landlords from renting to noncitizens (including legal immigrants here on visas) who did not fall into a narrow class of lawful immigrants. The Farmers Branch ordinance is just the latest unsuccessful attempt by cities and states to legislate immigration law locally, as several of these laws have subsequently been repealed (e.g., Riverside, N.J.; Valley Park, Mo.) or shot down by the courts (e.g., Hazleton, Penn.; Escondido, Calif.).
In December 2006 the ACLU, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, filed suit to challenge the ordinance. After the court issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the ordinance, Farmers Branch kept attempting to alter it, but it was still found to violate the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause and to be preempted by federal law.
When a city tries to deny housing to immigrants, it does nothing to help the immigration issues facing our country, but instead helps to feed the fire of anti-immigrant sentiment and perpetuate the misconceptions that immigration is a threat against public safety or our economy. Instead of punishing landlords and creating a patchwork of inconsistent and discriminatory laws, our cities should address immigration concerns by supporting rational solutions which do not violate American laws and values of fairness, equality, and due process.
Stay tuned, as the saga will certainly continue; Farmers Branch has recently adopted a new anti-immigrant housing ordinance.