Latest Farmers Branch rental law faces new suit


by By STEPHANIE SANDOVAL / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:44 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 4:26 PM

A second set of opponents has filed a federal lawsuit over Farmers Branch's latest attempt to deny rental houses or apartments to illegal immigrants.

Like a suit filed earlier this month, it challenges a new ordinance that requires renters to apply for occupancy licenses.

Those who are not citizens would have their immigration status checked against a federal database, and those in the country unlawfully would lose their licenses and be evicted.

The measure, Ordinance 2952, was scheduled to take effect Saturday, but U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking implementation.

She scheduled a hearing for Monday on a request for a preliminary injunction, which would continue the ban on enforcement until the first lawsuit is resolved.

The new suit was filed Friday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU of Texas.

The ACLU and MALDEF, along with the Bickel & Brewer Storefront law service, persuaded a different federal judge, Sam Lindsay, earlier this year to strike down a previous attempt by the city to ban apartment rentals to most illegal immigrants, Ordinance 2903.

The new suit contends that Ordinances 2952 and 2903, as well as a predecessor measure, were attempts by city officials to use "their own immigration scheme" to determine who should live in the country.

City attorney Michael Jung said that's not how Ordinance 2952 works.

"We don't think there is any difference between who is permitted to be in Farmers Branch under the ordinance and who is permitted to be in the United States under federal law," he said.

He planned to meet with the City Council today to discuss the litigation, including whether to appeal Judge Lindsay's finding that Ordinance 2903 is unconstitutional.

Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said she expects the court to combine the two lawsuits against Ordinance 2952, just as it did the separate suits against Ordinance 2903.