January 31, 2008
Farmers Branch asks judge to okay new ordinance

As we know, the city of Farmers Branch passed a new ordinance to restrict undocumented immigrants from renting apartments, with the burden of verifying the applicants' status falling on the city. They did that in an effort to bypass the legal morass they had encountered with the first ordinance, which they are currently injuncted from enforcing pending the outcome of a lawsuit. They have now asked the judge to consider that new ordinance to see if it makes muster.

The ordinance, which the City Council adopted last week, would require all prospective tenants in the city to claim U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status when applying for an occupancy license. If a federal database check later showed any non-citizens were here illegally, they would lose their licenses and be subject to fines.

The judge, Sam Lindsay, is already considering an ordinance the city's voters approved last May that bars landlords from renting apartments to illegal immigrants. That ordinance has been held up by legal challenges.

The new ordinance is different in that it applies to houses as well as apartments. It also shifts enforcement responsibility from landlords to government.

"We are committed to getting a final resolution of the legal challenges ... in an orderly and timely manner," said Michael Jung, an attorney for the city.

The Chron has a bit more on this. What's fascinating to me is that Farmers Branch can't say for certain that they're approach of checking with the feds themselves is even doable:

While in Dallas on Monday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Emilio Gonzalez said Farmers Branch first must seek an agreement with his agency to access the database. Then the agency would then consider whether the use is lawful and appropriate.

Obviously, that could render the whole matter moot. I suspect that because of that, Judge Lindsay will not grant Farmers Branch's request. But we'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 31, 2008 to National news