Dallas suburb cannot bar housing to illegal immigrants, court rules

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 22, 2013 10:18 PM

By Terry Baynes

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a Dallas suburb's controversial law that would have prevented illegal immigrants from renting housing.

In a 9-6 ruling, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a lower-court decision to block the ordinance in Farmers Branch, Texas, finding that the law interfered with the federal government's authority over immigration policy.

The law would have required renters in the suburb to register with the city and obtain an occupancy license. The city's building inspector would verify an applicant's immigration status with the federal government, and landlords who rented to unregistered tenants would face criminal fines or face losing their rental licenses.

By creating new criminal offenses and allowing state courts to review a non-citizen's immigration status, the law conflicted with federal law, a majority of the judges concluded, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration laws.

Kris Kobach, a lawyer for Farmers Branch, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Farmers Branch ordinance is one of numerous state and local efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. Arizona in 2010 passed its harsh set of immigration laws, which the Obama administration challenged in court.

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The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the most controversial aspect of Arizona's immigration overhaul, a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of the people they stop. But the court also struck down other provisions of the law, including a requirement that immigrants carry immigration papers at all times.

The Texas case is Villas at Parkside Partners et al v. City of Farmers Branch Texas, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-10751.

(Reporting by Terry Baynes in New York; Editing by Eric Beech)