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TribBlog: Farmers Branch Loses, Again

A federal judge declared on Wednesday that a Farmers Branch ordinance that banned apartment rentals to undocumented immigrants was unconstitutional.

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A federal judge ruled today that a city ordinance banning apartment rentals to undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional.

The City of Farmers Branch enacted ordinance 2952 in 2008 but today’s decision in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Texas blocks the city from enforcing the ordinance.

“The Court resoundingly rejected the City's claim that it had the authority to regulate the residence of noncitizens within its borders,” said the Texas American Civil Liberties Union in a press release. The ACLU, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), filed suit on behalf of a group of Farmers Branch landlords and tenants.  “Noting that the City Building Inspector would be charged with interpreting and applying immigration information to prospective tenants, the court concluded that Ordinance 2952 ‘is an invalid regulation of immigration,’” added the ACLU's statement.

In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle ruled: “Ordinance 2952 is a regulation of immigration and is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because the authority to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power.”

Nina Perales, MALDEF’s Regional Counsel in San Antonio, said she wouldn’t be surprised if the city appealed the ruling, but indicated Farmers Branch taxpayers might speak out against such an expensive effort.

“Losing defendants often talk about appeals on the day the decision comes down,” she said. “The people of Farmers Branch have to decide whether they are going to continue to throw money away on this. The city needs its resources for better purposes.”

Farmers Branch has already spent millions trying to enact these “illegal ordinances” she added, and expected at some point the “folks have to say, 'Stop.'”

It is up to the city council to decide whether or not to move forward with the appellate process.

Perales added the injunction was the third time this type of ordinance has been rejected. The city repealed the first ordinance before it was enacted after MALDEF filed suit in opposition, she said, and the federal court rejected the second ordinance after it was enacted.

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