January 23, 2007
Farmer's Branch tries again

They may be down in Farmer's Branch, but they're not out.

The five-member City Council voted unanimously to rescind an earlier measure and replace it with a modified version that must be approved by voters in May before it goes into effect.

"We aren't getting any support from the federal government or the state on this," said Councilman Bill Moses. He said other cities "are waiting to see what happens in Farmers Branch. They are waiting for us to break ground."

Councilman Ben Robinson said, "If we permit this invasion to continue we will be no different than Iraq with various factions giving allegiance to their group. If you forecast illegal immigration into the future you will be a bankrupt nation."

We interrupt this story to bring you some deep thoughts from Sen. Dan Patrick:

"I also think there is a perception by Texans on the border, where almost 90 percent of the population is Hispanic, that border control advocates are anti-Hispanic and want to kick out 12 million people or build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso."

I just can't imagine where these folks might have gotten that perception, Danno. Can you?

Back to our story:

The council voted unanimously in November to ban rentals to illegal immigrants effective Jan. 12, but the ban was blocked Jan. 11 when state District Judge Bruce Priddy granted a temporary restraining ordinance in one of the four lawsuits filed against the measure.

Last week, the council ordered the city attorney to draft a new ordinance. The revised ordinance lets voters decide in a May 12 referendum whether landlords should be prevented from renting to illegal immigrants.

Opponents already had forced the issue onto the ballot when they submitted a petition in December signed by 1,200 residents, well over the 721 needed to put the question to the citywide vote.

The revised measure exempts minor children and those over 62 from providing proof of legal status and allows "mixed" families comprising legal and illegal immigrants to renew their leases if the head of the household has legal status.

But it maintains the basic aim of barring apartment landlords from renting to those who cannot show proof of citizenship or legal immigration status, and it continues to set out penalties of $500 per violation per day.

In other words, the new law is basically the same as the old law, in that it wants to forcibly deputize landlords into an arm of la migra. Which means that these landlords will still be incentivized to not rent to anyone who looks Hispanic, since how can they be sure that those aren't forged documents and who wants to risk $500 a day in fines? Other than putting this to the voters, I don't see the point of this exercise. They're still going to get sued, and I'd bet they'll still lose. Well, I guess now they can blame the voters who ratified their folly. In that sense, they've made progress.

As far as that vote goes:

Although Farmers Branch, the city of 27,000 on Dallas' northern edge, is nearly 40 percent Hispanic, white voters will be key because they make up more than 90 percent of registered voters in the city.

Chris McGuire, spokesman for Uniting Farmers Branch, which opposes the ban, said 90 percent of those who signed the referendum petition were white. "It isn't Mexican or Hispanic against white people, it's all of us," he said.

Tom Bohmier, a leader of Support Farmers Branch, which supports the illegal immigrant measure, said his group has organized a legal defense fund. Other cities in Texas are likely to follow Farmers Branch if its rental ban is allowed to go into force, he said.

I've no idea how this vote will go, though I confess to being pessimistic. If I have one prediction to make, it's that this will be the nastiest and most expensive election Farmer's Branch has ever seen, and that it will be national news throughout. Won't that be fun to look forward to? Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2007 to National news

I'll let the lawyers decide whether Farmers Branch even has the authority to be enacting ordinances like this in the first place. Cities are "creatures of the state" and generally only have the authority granted by enabling legislation. If the City Council can regulate tenancy based on immigration status, why not also ban grocery stores from selling food to illegal immigrants, or prohibit gas stations from selling them fuel? The list can go on and on. To me, immigration is less of a concern than respect by our elected officials for the rule of law.

Posted by: Dennis on January 23, 2007 12:30 PM