June 21, 2007
Farmers Branch and Hazelton

At last, we have an official injunction against the anti-immigrant ordinance in Farmers Branch, to replace the existing temporary restraining order.

Agreeing with lawyers for residents and apartment owners who sued, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay wrote that the measure is "based upon a scheme that does not adopt federal immigration standards" and is too vague for landlords to apply.

The ordinance, which voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin last month, would require apartment managers to verify that tenants are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants, with some exceptions for the elderly and minors. Landlords who don't comply would face fines of up to $500 per tenant per day.

Lindsay said the plaintiffs who challenged the measure proved they had a "substantial likelihood" of winning the case on its merits. His injunction blocks enforcement of the measure until a trial is completed, lawyers in the case said.

Lindsay declined the city's request that he edit the ordinance to try to make it constitutionally acceptable. "Any attempt to rewrite the ordinance would require the court to legislate by creating an entirely new ordinance," Lindsay wrote.

Marisol Perez, a staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, " The judge is in line with what courts around the country are doing. They are not allowing cities to do this."

Indeed. Via TalkLeft, I found out about the case of Hazelton, PA, where a similar ordinance was blocked by a federal judge pending the outcome of a lawsuit (there have been at least two lawsuits filed against this ordinance). As it happens, that trial concluded in May, with a ruling expected in the summer. You may want to stock up on earplugs now for when that sucker hits the presses.

Farmers Branch council member Tim O'Hare, who sponsored the measure, said, "I'm certainly disappointed the judge has chosen to ignore the overwhelming will of the people in our town, but I can't say I'm totally surprised."

Oh, cry me a river. The "will of the people" means nothing if what they want to do is illegal. What do you think would have happened if the city had passed a law decriminalizing heroin, as a for instance? There's a reason civil rights legislation was done at a federal level.

By the way, if you haven't read the Steve Murdock interview in the Observer, in which he talks about how the population of Texas is rapidly becoming non-Anglo, and that the Anglo population is aging, consider this snippet:

TO: As you go around the state, what kind of response are you getting to your presentations?

SM: Well, it's changed a lot over the past 25 years that I've been talking about this. Twenty-five years ago a lot of people didn't believe this was going to happen. Virtually no one will say today, "We're not going to be diverse. We're not getting older." So I think there's a lot more acceptance.

I think the reactions run somewhat to what you'd expect. That is, there's some who look at it and say, "What should we do to address this?" There are some who say, "I'm going to wall myself off. I'll find a place where I can live and forget about all this, I don't want to deal with it." Those are probably the two most common. And the third set really says, "I see what it is but you can't do a thing about it. It's going happen. What do we do?" In other words, they're not as activated to look for alternatives to do things. They just feel like it's overwhelming. I'd say those are the most frequent reactions these days. Twenty-five years ago many people said, "You're just wrong."

Certainly the number of people that are interested in doing something about it has increased over the years. They increasingly see their fate is tied. And one of the things that we try to show in our work--and this goes back to the individual versus the group phenomenon--is the extent to which all Texans' fates are tied to the changes that occur and how we handle them.

By [20]23 or [20]24, we're talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I'm going to have--fire, police, and other services--depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.

As Texas goes in this matter, so goes the nation. It's just a shame that places like Farmers Branch and Hazelton have chosen to respond to it by burying their heads in the sand.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 21, 2007 to National news