Texas town’s immigrant rental ban overturned

On Aug. 29, US District Judge Sam A. Lindsay issued a final judgment permanently preventing the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch from enforcing an ordinance that would have required landlords to verify the immigration status of tenants. Lindsay ruled that Ordinance 2903 violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment because it was too vague, and that it interfered with the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over immigration. Farmers Branch voters had approved Ordinance 2903 by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 in May 2007, after an earlier attempt to restrict housing rentals by out-of-status immigrants was blocked by the courts.

In January 2008 the Farmers Branch City Council adopted yet another replacement measure, Ordinance 2952, to take effect 15 days after Lindsay’s final ruling on the earlier rule. The new ordinance would require all prospective tenants to get a rental license from the city. The city would use a federal database to verify the applicant’s legal status before approving the license. (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 31, Sept. 4; AP, Aug. 29)

Opponents filed a lawsuit against the new ordinance on Sept. 3, asking Judge Lindsay to block its implementation, currently set for Sept. 13. The lawsuit says that the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database which the city plans to use is designed to verify eligibility for programs such as housing assistance, Medicaid and unemployment compensation; municipalities are not authorized to use the system to determine who is eligible for rental housing. Judge Lindsay had already criticized the new ordinance in May, calling it “yet another attempt to circumvent the court’s prior rulings and further an agenda that runs afoul of the United States Constitution.” (DMN, Sept. 4)

From Immigration News Briefs, Sept. 7

See our last post on the politics of immigration.