May 22, 2007
TRO granted in Farmers Branch lawsuit

No surprise here.

A federal judge on Monday issued an order halting enforcement of a voter-endorsed ordinance preventing apartment rentals to most illegal immigrants, a day before the ban was to take effect in this Dallas suburb.

U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay wrote that only the federal government can determine whether a person is in the United States legally.

Instead of deferring to federal officials, Farmers Branch has created its own classification to determine which noncitizens may rent an apartment, the judge ruled, also noting that Farmers Branch appeared to have taken federal regulations regarding housing benefits for noncitizens and used them to define who may rent an apartment in the city.

"The court recognizes that illegal immigration is a major problem in this country, and one who asserts otherwise ignores reality," Lindsay wrote. "The court also fully understands the frustration of cities attempting to address a national problem that the federal government should handle; however, such frustration, no matter how great, cannot serve as a basis to pass an ordinance that conflicts with federal law."

The ordinance was to take effect Tuesday, more than a week after voters approved the regulation by 68 percent, according to unofficial election results.

However, "public approval of the Ordinance, by itself, does not guide the court as to whether the Ordinance complies with the law," the judge wrote.

Hopefully this is the first step to getting this law thrown out. Vince has a press release from MALDEF and the ACLU on the ruling. Meanwhile, a second lawsuit addressed an ancillary issue:

The lawsuit seeks the creation of single-member districts, in which a city council member is elected to represent a specific section of the city. Both large and small cities with diverse racial makeup use the system, said Rolando Rios, the attorney leading the suit.

Activists say if the method had been in place, at least one Latino candidate would have been elected to the council and could represent the group. All five council members are white men.

As we know, it was a lawsuit from the 1970s that led to the implementation of single-member City Council districts in Houston. Given the recent actions by Farmers Branch City Council and that city's substantial Hispanic population, I'd say the same setup there is long overdue.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 22, 2007 to National news