Federal judge strikes down Texas city immigrant housing ordinance

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas [official website] issued a permanent injunction [opinion, PDF] Wednesday against a Texas city ordinance prohibiting illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] from renting property in the city. Judge Jane Boyle ruled that the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch cannot enforce Ordinance 2952 [text, PDF], which required prospective renters to affirm they were in the country legally, finding it to be preempted by federal law under the US Constitution's supremacy clause. The ordinance allowed the city to revoke a potential renter's residential occupancy license, a license required for anyone to rent a dwelling under the ordinance, if the federal government determined the immigrant was not in the country legally. Boyle wrote:

This is not a situation where the City is aiding in the enforcement of federal immigration law based on federal standards through the means set forth by federal law; rather, the City is attempting to enforce its own scheme that incorporates federal standards for purposes not contemplated by Congress. The City may take appropriate action to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, but it may not, even if it were to incorporate the proper standard, independently enforce its own immigration rules.

Plaintiffs were represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLUTX), which welcomed [press release] Boyle's ruling.

Boyle issued a temporary injunction [JURIST report] against enforcement of the ordinance in 2008. In the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] filed earlier in 2008 [JURIST report], several landlords and a former City Council member challenged the constitutionality of Ordinance 2952, alleging it denied immigrants equal protection and due process rights. The city passed the ordinance [JURIST report] after a previous law, Ordinance 2903 [DOC text], was struck down [JURIST report] by a US district judge in 2007 as an infringement of federal supremacy in the area of immigration. The Farmers Branch City Council passed the latest ordinance in an attempt to cure that flaw.

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