Farmers Branch renting ordinance blocked by appeals court - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Farmers Branch renting ordinance blocked by appeals court

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The city of Farmers Branch will decide soon whether to continue a long, expensive fight to defend an ordinance designed to keep immigrants without legal permission to be in the country from renting.

The 5th U.S. Court of Appeals issued another blow to the ordinance Monday in ruling it unconstitutional. Council members of the suburb just north of Dallas are scheduled to discuss their options next month, Michael Jung, an attorney for Farmers Branch, said Tuesday.

Farmers Branch, a nearly 30,000-person bedroom community that is about 45 percent Latino, is one of several cities nationwide that has targeted immigration by enacting renting restrictions. The ordinance Farmers Branch passed in 2008 would have required all renters to obtain city licenses and for a city official to deny licenses to anyone found to be here illegally. Landlords who didn't comply could have faced fines or revocation of their renters' licenses.

The 5th U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that the law encroached on territory reserved to federal law enforcement. It relied heavy on last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down parts of the Arizona immigration law for similar reasons.

Unless the Supreme Court steps in, Farmers Branch won't be allowed to enforce the ordinance. While Farmers Branch's opponents said the high court made itself clear with the Arizona case, Jung pointed said another appeals court had allowed the eastern Nebraska city of Fremont to enforce a similar law.

That creates a conflict between appeals courts that could prompt the Supreme Court to take one of those cases, Jung said.

"At this point, the ruling is against it, but we'll see what comes in the future," Jung said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an anti-illegal immigration advocate who helped write and defend the laws in Farmers Branch and Fremont, called the two ordinances "virtually identical."

"Given all of these factors, I think the case is not closed, so to speak," Kobach said.

Fighting for immigration laws has cost the city almost $6 million, according to a city spokesman, and lasted more than seven years since the first version of the renters' ordinance was passed. Officials say they have tried to be hospitable to Latino residents. Voters elected the city's first Latino city council member earlier this year.

That vote came after a federal judge ruled that Farmers Branch had to elect council members by district, not at large. Latinos had argued the at-large system preserved an all-white city council and denied them fair representation.

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