Immigrant Housing Law – Court Upholds Ban

Undocumented immigrants in the US face many hurdles, one of which is housing. All immigrants to the US need to find some place to live, but many communities are less than welcoming. In fact, some communities, such as Farmers Branch in Texas, have passed laws aimed at deterring undocumented immigrants from living in the community. Advocates of such laws say that the laws prevent those who have already broken the law by immigrating without due process from taking up residence. Opponents of such laws say that the laws prevent people from getting access to housing. A recent court ruling has deemed that landlords and cities cannot bar undocumented immigrants from securing housing.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower county ruling that prevented a suburb in Dallas from checking immigration status of would-be renters. The court deemed that Farmers Branch had exceeded its authority by checking the immigration status of all potential renters who were not US citizens. Farmers Branch passed a law requiring the checks because it was hoping to keep out undocumented immigrants. Under the law, landlords who permitted undocumented immigrants to rent housing in the suburb could have their rental licenses revoked.

The court deemed that the city was pretending to police housing but really hoping to bar undocumented immigrants, especially Latino immigrants, from the community. The court deemed that this was beyond the city’s authority, since only the federal government has authority in terms of immigration laws and regulations.

The city passed the law in 2008, and tenants as well as apartment owners filed a lawsuit, alleging the law was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle agreed, but the city appealed, leading to the most recent decision. The plaintiffs’ attorney, William Brewer, stated that there was a sense in the courtroom that the city law was discriminatory. Under the ruling, the city must pay legal fees for the plaintiffs, which are currently close to $2 million. Brewer noted that the ruling may prevent other communities from passing similar housing laws.

Bill Glancy, Mayor for Farmers Branch, has stated that he will discuss the case with City Council, to determine whether to appeal the ruling or take the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Glancy has stated that the supported the law because it keeps undocumented immigrants from the suburb. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has stated that he was not surprised by the ruling but does not believe that the case is over.