Farmers Branch moving forward with rental ban appeal

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on August 21, 2013 at 8:41 PM

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FARMERS BRANCH — The Farmers Branch Town Council will appeal a lower court ruling on an ordinance that bans illegal immigrants from renting in the city.

With a 3-2 vote, the Council decided to drag out what has been a seven-year battle for at least another year to pursue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In July, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans found the town's ordinance to be unconstitutional and superseded by federal immigration law.

The mayor and the town's chief financial officer said Farmers Branch has already spent $6 million in fees related to the case. That number could go much higher if the town loses the next round in the courts and is forced to pay attorneys fees for the plaintiffs who filed suit against Farmers Branch in 2008.

Michael Jung represents the city and said work on the appeal will be done pro bono.

"When the ordinance was enacted, we told the city that they needed to be in it for the long haul," Jung said Wednesday afternoon from his Dallas office. Jung works for the law firm of Strasburger & Price.

Mayor Bill Glancy was not available for an on-camera interview, but told News 8 by telephone that those pending court costs — estimated to be at least $2 million right now — had no bearing on the Council's decision to move ahead with the appeal.

"It's about so much more than the money; it's casting a shadow over our city, and I don't think it's in the best interest of anybody," said Elizabeth Villafranca, who operates a restaurant and a coffee shop in Farmers Branch. She has opposed the ordinance from the beginning and says the town is beating a dead horse at the expense of its image.

"Three federal judges have said this is unconstitutional, so what are they not understanding about the rule of law?" Villafranca asked. "The rule of law is just an excuse for them to continue to forward their fear."

The town's attorney pointed out that decision was a split one, and lower court judges have been divided on cases in two other cities.

A lower court also ruled in favor of the city of Nevada, which passed an ordinance very similar to the one in Farmers Branch. For that reason, Jung said it was worth rolling the dice and seeing if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.

"So you have federal judges at the lower level all over the map on this question, and that is the kind of thing the Supreme Court looks for when it decides to take a case," Jung said.

Long time Farmers Branch resident Pat Warnock was among the majority of people present at Tuesday's Town Council meeting who were in favor of the appeal. She said something needs to be done about illegal immigration, even if it's only small steps taken at the local level.

"Farmers Branch needs to say, 'Hey, I'm fighting for my rights as a citizen, and I'm fighting for my rights as a legal citizen," Warnock said.

The town's appeal must be filed by October 21.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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