September 23, 2008

Judge to fast-track Farmers Branch case on renting to illegal immigrants

DALLAS — A federal judge agreed Monday to fast-track the legal challenges to a Farmers Branch ordinance that bans illegal immigrants from renting homes.

U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle agreed to push the case through the courts. The last time opponents challenged the housing rule it took nearly two years to reach a conclusion. That case ended last month when a federal judge ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

But by then the suburb had drawn up a similar ordinance, which led to two other lawsuits by opponents seeking to stop it. Those lawsuits were consolidated into one case.

Boyle approved an Oct. 29 deadline for motions in the case. She didn’t set a trial date, but both sides have agreed to Dec. 8 or sooner. This month, the judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping the latest law from being enforced. She agreed Monday to continue halting the ordinance from taking effect while legal challenges continue.

The latest ordinance would require house and apartment tenants to seek a rental license. City officials want to check the names of license applicants who aren’t U.S. citizens against a federal database. The city would penalize landlords who rent to tenants lacking licenses.

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