On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans upheld a lower court ruling invalidating a Farmers Branch, Texas, city ordinance aimed at combating the presence of illegal aliens by forbidding those without proper immigration documentation from renting housing. This Circuit Court ruling keeps in force the injunction imposed by the lower district court against the law — Ordinance 2952.
Two years ago the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a permanent injunction against this controversial addition to the city code. In her decision in the case filed by an apartment complex and a man denied housing under the provisions of the ordinance, Judge Jane Boyle held that Farmers Branch (a suburb of Dallas) could not legally enforce Ordinance 2952.
Ordinance 2952 required those applying to rent housing to actively affirm their legal residence status. Further, the municipality could revoke a person’s license to rent if he or she failed to comply with the immigration requirements imposed by the new law. The ultimate determination of a person’s immigration status would be made by recurring to available federal immigration records.
The obtaining of a license to rent is mandated by existing landlord-tenant regulations of Farmers Branch. Applicants must register with the city and qualify for an occupancy license. The ordinance at issue in the case makes it a criminal offense to make a false declaration on the occupancy license application. It is also a criminal offense for a person to occupy rental housing without a valid occupancy license or for a lessor to knowingly permit a person to occupy a rental unit without a valid license. The penalty for each offense is a fine of $500 per day of the occupancy.
As reported elsewhere, “This is the city's third attempt at such an ordinance — in what has become one of the most high-profile and controversial efforts to regulate immigration in the United States.”
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