MAY 29, 2008
A Clinton-appointed judge has ruled that a Dallas suburb’s ban on apartment rentals to illegal immigrants—passed by city lawmakers and later endorsed by voters—is unconstitutional because only the federal government can regulate immigration.
U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay said that city leaders in Farmers Branch violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution because they didn’t defer to the federal government on this immigration matter. That, in turn, allows the federal government to pre-empt local laws, according to the judge.
The Farmers Branch council passed the ordinance in 2006 in an effort to curb the illegal immigration crisis that has devastated the entire state of Texas as well as other border states. The measure would have barred apartment rentals to illegal immigrants and required landlords to verify legal status in the country. Violators would have faced a misdemeanor charge punishable by $500.
Farmers Branch citizens subsequently voted—by a 2-to-1 margin—in favor of the ordinance, marking the nation’s first public vote on a local law to combat illegal immigration. Last year Judge Lindsay sided with a politically connected Latino rights group in temporarily blocking the measure from being enacted, claiming that Farmers Branch created its own classification to determine which non citizens may rent an apartment in the city.
The judge also said in his May 2007 temporary injunction that the ordinance deputized landlords to serve as federal immigration agents and that city officials were regulating immigration differently from the federal government. This week’s ruling simply makes that temporary injunction permanent.
Like many cities across the nation, Farmers Branch has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend legal challenges to laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration. Many of the nation’s smaller municipalities have been forced to abandon their own measures in order to avoid costly litigation. The first was a southern New Jersey town (Riverside), which actually reversed a law that punished those who hire or rent to illegal aliens under threat of litigation by a notoriously liberal civil rights group.
Several other local governments have seen their laws get defeated by liberal judges like Lindsay, whose 1998 appointment to the bench was historic because it made him the first black federal judge in Northern Texas. Escondido California and Hazleton Pennsylvania are among the municipalities whose measures to curb illegal immigration have been struck down in court.
One popular web site that claims to objectively rate judges across the nation posted a variety of unfavorable comments relating to Lindsay’s Farmers Branch ruling. One reader questions how a judge can stop something that the people voted for. Another challenges the judge’s alleged unconstitutionality of the Farmers Branch law, pointing out that his12-year-old has a better grasp of the Constitution.
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