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."
"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."
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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.
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.