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Immigrant tenant ban overturned

May 29, 2008|From the Associated Press

FARMERS BRANCH, TEXAS — This Dallas suburb's ban on apartment rentals to illegal immigrants is unconstitutional, a federal judge decided Wednesday.

Only the federal government can regulate immigration, U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay concluded.

The ordinance, passed by Farmers Branch city officials last year and endorsed by a citizens' referendum, didn't defer to the federal government, Lindsay said, which is in violation of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Bill Brewer, who represented apartment complex operators who opposed the rule, declared victory.

"It's a good day, not just for my clients," Brewer said.

"It's a good day for people who are thinking clearly about what is the proper role of municipal governments in the immigration debate," the attorney added.

The city has no plans to appeal because it has already stopped pursuing the ordinance and replaced it with another tactic.

"We're disappointed but not particularly surprised," said Michael Jung, one of the city's attorneys.

The ordinance would have barred apartment rentals to illegal immigrants and required landlords to verify legal status for prospective tenants, excepting minors and senior citizens.

Farmers Branch now plans to require prospective tenants to get a rental license from the city.

The city would ask the federal government for the applicant's legal status before issuing the license.

Around the country, about 100 cities or counties have proposed similar laws, but Farmers Branch was the first in immigrant-heavy Texas to adopt one, according to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which tracks the data.

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