Judge strikes down ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting apartments

(MSNBC)   A federal judge has ruled that a Farmers Branch ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting apartments is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle of Dallas ruled Wednesday that the ordinance was an attempt to enforce U.S. immigration laws, something only the federal government can do.

“Ordinance 2952 is a regulation of immigration and is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because the authority to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power,” she wrote.

The ordinance established a licensing system for renters in Farmers Branch. Renters would be required to pay a $5 fee and obtain a residential occupancy license issued by the city’s building inspector. Under the system, the building inspector would verify a renter’s immigration status with federal officials if the renter did not declare him or herself a citizen or national of the United States. The city would revoke the licenses of people the federal government said were in the country illegally.

Boyle said in her ruling that the measure uses federal immigration classifications in ways that aren’t authorized or contemplated by federal law.

“As a result, the ordinance creates and additional restriction on alien residence in the city,” she wrote.

The judge also said in her ruling that Ordinance 2952 “directly and substantially” regulates the residence of immigrants in Farmers Branch, which interferes with the uniform enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The city has for years been trying to enforce bans on landlords renting to illegal immigrants. Federal courts have also struck down other versions of the ordinance.

Mayor Tim O’Hare, who supports Ordinance 2952, told The Dallas Morning News that he favors appealing the ruling, but said the City Council would have to vote on that.

The City Council will vote next month on whether or not to continue fighting.

But Elizabeth Villafranca, a restaurant owner, said the money the city would spend on appealing could be better spent.

“This is irresponsible, especially in these economic times,” she said.

Villafranca said continuing the fight could also hurt development.

“Big businesses are not going to come here to do new development if the city is perceived as being backward,” she said.

But O’Hare said the city has seen development, and is likely to see more with DART rail on the way.

“What is the cost of doing nothing?” he said. “And the cost of doing nothing, it affects your school districts, it affects your shopping centers.”

O’Hare said he thinks the city can win on appeal.

“What we seem to have gotten away form in this country is doing what the people that elected you want you to do,” he said.

Get More:
Read the judge’s opinion and order (PDF)


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