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Farmers Branch lawsuit

To no one’s surprise, the city of Farmers Branch has been sued for its recent anti-immigrant actions.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund is asking a federal court here to block the suburb from enforcing an ordinance banning apartment managers from leasing to illegal immigrants. The rental measure, which would fine apartment owners up to $500 a day for violations, was passed last month and is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 12.

“The power to regulate immigration belongs to the federal government, otherwise you’d have cities, counties, town, and other entities creating their own immigration laws, which would be unenforceable,” said Lisa Graybill, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

“The Farmers Branch law is a botched attempt to force landlords to police immigration,” Nina Perales, southwest regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a release.

She said Farmers Branch is wasting taxpayer money trying to drive out Latinos.

Calls to Farmers Branch officials were referred to City Attorney Matthew Boyle, who declined to comment, except to say it was expected. “They’ve been threatening us with litigation since August or September, so it was our understanding that this would be filed,” he said.

When this stupid law was first passed, one of its architects predicted they’d be sued. I don’t know about you, but if I were a resident of Farmers Branch, I’d want to know why my tax dollars were going to be spent defending these suits. You’d think they’d have more pressing needs than that.

The ACLU/MALDEF suit alleges that Farmers Branch places landlords in the untenable position of acting as federal immigration officers. It also complains the ordinance is poorly drafted and excludes even some immigrants with proper legal status from renting in Farmers Branch apartment complexes.

Ten plaintiffs in the lawsuit include two adult Latino tenants who are legal residents but whom have family members who are not; five unidentified children whose parents are affected by the law and three apartment owners.

The suit alleges, among other things, that the ordinance denies citizen apartment dwellers their First Amendment right to free association because it bars them from living with relatives who are not legal residents.

It also alleges the ordinance discriminates against Latinos because 42 percent of Latino-headed households in the city live in apartment complexes. By contrast, only 14 percent households headed by whites live in apartment complexes.

The ordinance, which exempts rental houses and duplexes, fails to cite any studies, reports or statistics that support the conclusion that citizenship certification is necessary for the safety and welfare of Farmers Branch residents, the plaintiffs allege.

I can’t wait to see what the city’s defense is. There are two other suits against them for related matters as well, so at least they’ll get some practice.

Also, opponents have submitted a petition seeking to force a public vote on the measures. If the city verifies 726 signatures, a vote is likely to be scheduled for May.

More fun to look forward to. Stay tuned.

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3 Comments

  1. Fun fact: both groups mentioned in the article (ACLU and MALDEF) have at least one indirect link to the Mexican government:

    http://lonewacko.com/blog/archives/005479.html

  2. kevin whited says:

    if I were a resident of Farmers Branch, I’d want to know why my tax dollars were going to be spent defending these suits.

    So, as an elected official, you’d never press ahead on polices that may spark a lawsuit?

    That doesn’t seem like a very bold leadership stance!

    But wait, aren’t those troublemakers and rabblerousers on Richmond threatening to sue over the light rail route that you support? How could one support such an option if that’s the case?

    I guess that “lawsuit” rule of policymaking may not be hard and fast? 🙂

  3. Well, Kevin, let’s review:

    1. As yet, there is no lawsuit over the Universities route. The rabblerousers can threaten all they like – as with blogging, threats are still free.

    2. I didn’t say a lawsuit meant a government entity should not take a particular course of action. I said I’d want to know what their explanation is for choosing that course, especially since they knew going in that it would mean a suit. Was that the best use of resources, and the right thing to do regardless? Were I a voter in Farmers Branch, they’d have to convince me of that. Surely you like knowing why your government is spending money, right?

    3. Even if the rail rabblerousers make good on their threat, the policy rationale for Richmond is clear and compelling: maximum ridership for lowest cost. Win or lose, good policy is always the best defense. What’s the public policy rationale in Farmers Branch?