Local Government Forges Ahead With Anti-Immigrant Housing Ordinances

Dallas, TX- Over the past several years, state and local governments across the country have seen it as their duty to curtail illegal immigration by passing laws that are intended to make the daily lives of undocumented immigrants so difficult that they leave the city or state and hopefully the country. While in many cases these laws have been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, anti-immigration groups are still forging forward with their draconian immigration laws.

Such is the case of Farmers Branch, Texas, a small suburb north of Dallas. In 2006, lawmakers in the town passed a housing ordinance which they believed would drive away undocumented immigrants. The law prohibited property owners from renting to immigrants who could not prove they are in the country legally. If a landlord did rent to an undocumented immigrant, they would be subject to a hefty financial penalty. The law also gave local law enforcement the right to inquire about an immigrant’s legal status and established English as the official language of the city.

This is similar to an ordinance passed in Hazleton, Pennsylvania with difference being that a landlord faced criminal charges for renting to an undocumented immigrant. The law was struck down by two courts, which include the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, stating it discriminatory and unconstitutional by interfering with the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit also overturned the Farmers Branch ordinance, but leaders in the city were not satisfied with the decision and in August the city council voted to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the Dallas News.

“It has been determined by the full U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative federal appellate courts in the country, that this anti-immigrant rental ordinance is unconstitutional” Farmers Branch Council Member Ana Reyes said after the vote.  “After seven years and millions of tax dollars, the Farmers Branch City Council had an opportunity to put an end to this.  I am extremely disappointed with the outcome and I know that ultimately, members of this Council failed our community tonight.”

Hazelton will join Farmers Branch in their suit, with supporters arguing, according to the LA Times, that their ordinances do not interfere with federal immigration authority because they are housing ordinances and not immigration laws.

Even though the city has spent close to six million dollars, citizens in Farmers Branch believe the law is necessary because the immigration population is a serious problem.

The Supreme Court, which only takes between 100 to 150 cases each, has yet to decide on whether they will hear the case. It is unclear if the high court will decide to hear the Farmers Branch case, but judging by the fact that lower courts have denied their efforts enact the ordinances and Supreme Court decision last year in the Arizona case, it is likely the town’s case won’t be picked.