A US Federal Court has struck down an attempt by a Texan local authority to screen the immigration status of would-be house renters, claiming that it “interfered with the federal government’s authority over immigration policy.”
The ruling, made 9-6 by the 5th US Court of Appeals in New Orleans, upheld a lower-court decision to block the ordinance in Farmers Branch, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.
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 have had to 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 US Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration laws.
The Farmers Branch ordinance is one of numerous state and local efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
Arizona, in 2010, passed its sensible (and relatively mild) immigration laws, which the Obama administration challenged in court.
The case, Villas at Parkside Partners et al v. City of Farmers Branch Texas, 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-10751, was launched by individuals named Valentin Reyes; Alicia Garcia; Ginger Edwards; Jose Guadalupe Arias, and Aide Garza.
The judgment’s summary was as follows: “The City of Farmers Branch, Texas (“the City”), appeals the district court’s summary judgment enjoining it from implementing a purported housing ordinance that requires all adults living in rental housing within the City to obtain an occupancy license conditioned upon the occupant’s citizenship or lawful immigration status.
“The district court concluded that the ordinance was preempted by federal law as a regulation of immigration that infringed Congress’s constitutional power.
“The court also concluded that the ordinance was field preempted and conflict preempted under federal law.
“We conclude that the ordinance’s sole purpose is not to regulate housing but to exclude undocumented aliens, specifically Latinos, from the City of Farmers Branch and that it is an impermissible regulation of immigration.
“We hold that the ordinance is unconstitutional and presents an obstacle to federal authority on immigration and the conduct of foreign affairs. We therefore affirm the district court’s judgment.”