Thursday, March 6, 2014

SCOTUS Declines To Review Farmers Branch Immigration Ordinance Case — Lower Courts' ‘Unconstitutional’ Verdict Upheld

Dianne Solis at Dallas Morning News:
The U.S. Supreme Court brought closure Monday to the seven-year legal battle in Farmers Branch over a local ordinance that sought to ban landlords from renting property to people who are in the U.S. unlawfully.

The high court declined to review a lower-court ruling that declared the ordinance unconstitutional.

The measure was never enforced, but it fractured the suburb of about 29,000 residents and saddled its budget with more than $6.1 million in legal expenses. Bills of more than $2 million are pending. Payment was stalled by three different appeals.

Farmers Branch is a town near Dallas/Ft. Worth. Such ordinances have popped up in various parts of the country, with circuit courts ruling variously. Some had hoped the Supreme Court would grant cert and resolve the matter nationwide. No luck, at least not in this case.

The latest ordinance called on all prospective tenants to prove they are in the U.S. lawfully as part of obtaining a $5 residential occupancy license. Tenants and landlords who violated the ordinance would have faced a Class C misdemeanor charge.


Several lower courts ruled against the city ordinance, saying immigration policy was a federal issue. In New Orleans, at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the city received a split decision that largely went against the ordinance.

Hispanic legal groups including MALDEF brought suit against the ordinance. Courts ruling against the ordinance explained, as one would expect, that immigration policy is a federal matter, not state and (certainly) not local. Many Hispanic American citizens also objected on the basis that because of their appearance they would repeatedly have to prove their citizenship in circumstances in which whites and African Americans would not. I know a few Hispanic Americans well enough to understand that such things are not merely theoretical; they actually happen to most Hispanic Americans.

I really wish the Supreme Court had taken the case. Such cases are an utter waste of human emotional energy and financial resources, and they need to be brought to an end. At least this should settle the matter for Texas.

(H/T Charles Kuffner for his steadfast blogging through the length of this interminable case.)

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