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Vol. 71/No. 29      August 6, 2007

Judge blocks implementation of
anti-immigrant law in Texas town
HOUSTON—Federal District Judge Sam Lindsay issued an injunction June 19 against the city of Farmers Branch, Texas. The ruling prevents the city from implementing a law banning landlords from renting to illegal immigrants, until a lawsuit by apartment complex owners, tenants, and others is resolved in a trial or is settled.

The ordinance requires apartment managers to verify that renters are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants before leasing to them. Landlords who break the rule could be punished by fines of up to $500 per day.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city include the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the American Civil Liberties Union, and a group of 43 businesses and apartment complex owners. They requested the injunction to block the law from going into effect as scheduled on June 26.

In his 33-page ruling, Judge Lindsay agreed with the plaintiffs, rejecting all of the city’s arguments defending the ordinance.

“The court concludes that only the federal government may determine whether an individual is legally in the United States. Farmers Branch … has created its own classification scheme for determining which noncitizens may rent an apartment in that city,” Judge Lindsay wrote. “It is clear … the ordinance makes the provision of immigration documentation a ‘prerequisite’ to the renting of an apartment.”

Lindsay said the plaintiffs proved they had a “substantial likelihood” of winning the case on its merits. The judge refused the city’s request that he edit the ordinance to try to make it constitutionally acceptable. “Any attempt to rewrite the ordinance would require the court to legislate by creating an entirely new ordinance,” Lindsay wrote.

MALDEF staff attorney Marisol Perez said her organization will press the trial court to make the injunction permanent. William Brewer III, a Dallas lawyer representing the apartment owners, said he will ask for damages at trial. “There is no doubt this ordinance has had a chilling effect on our ability to attract Hispanic tenants,” he said.
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New York political activist Víctor Toro fights deportation
ICE raids Swift plants, arrests 25  
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