January 22, 2008

Farmers Branch passes new ban on renting to illegals

Jan. 22, 2008

By PATRICK McGEEpmcgee@star-telegram.com

Farmers Branch dug in deeper in its fight against illegal immigration Tuesday night with a unanimous City Council vote for a new ordinance -- the third in 14 months -- to ban illegal immigrants from renting apartments in the city.

The new ordinance would also make renting a house off limits to illegal immigrants. The measure is part of the city's ongoing attempt to survive challenges in court that has kept the ban from being implemented.

The current ban never went into effect; it was halted by a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay, who found possible Constitutional problems with it.

The new ordinance is an attempt to meet those concerns and fulfill the wishes of Farmers Branch voters, who endorsed a rental ban by a 2-to-1 margin in a May referendum.

"A big advantage of this ordinance is that the federal government will be the one that determines immigration status," Dallas attorney Michael Jung told the council. Jung was hired by the city to grapple with Lindsay's restraining order, and he is the main author of the ordinance.

The new ordinance requires all people over age 18 who want to rent an apartment or house in the city to get a $5 rental occupancy license from City Hall.

The Building Inspector will turn in the paper work to federal authorities to see if immigrants who applied are here legally.

"Deficiency notices" will be sent to people whose information does not check out with the federal government. The occupant then has 60 days to correct the discrepancy or move out.

Landlords can be fined up to $500 a day and may have their rental licenses suspended if they do not evict the occupant believed to be an illegal immigrant.

The new ordinance's language says it will go into effect 15 days after Lindsay gives his final ruling on the ordinance he halted with a temporary restraining order.

Patrick McGee, 817-685-3806

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Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?