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Farmers Branch rental ban similar to Arizona’s struck-down immigration law


The following ran in the June 25, 2012, edition of the Dallas Morning News. Law Professor George Martinez provided expertise for this story.

June 28, 2012


Farmers Branch’s years-long, voter-backed fight to prevent illegal immigrants from renting in the city may soon hinge on a divided Supreme Court decision Monday that struck down key parts of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

The Arizona legislation and Farmers Branch rental ban have key parallels because each focuses on the “pre-emption” argument that federal law overrules state and local law. But just how Monday’s ruling, which concluded that Arizona’s legislation effectively attempted to pre-empt federal law, affects the Farmers Branch ordinance will probably depend on how city officials react to it.

Through May, the city has spent about $4.85 million defending the ordinance. So far, it has been blocked at every level in federal courts, most recently by a majority opinion from a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The ordinance had large support in the city. In 2007, residents voted by a 2-to-1 majority in favor of an earlier version in a nonbinding referendum.

City officials asked the full appeals court to review the case but have not heard whether their request will be granted.

Council member Ben Robinson said Monday that he hadn’t read the full Arizona ruling and that officials have yet to analyze how it applies to their city.

“You’re a little premature,” Robinson said Monday. “We need a little time to address it.”

At least one legal expert said Monday’s ruling will cement the legal arguments against the Farmers Branch ordinance.

“These cases are pretty similar,” said George Martínez, a law professor at Southern Methodist University. “This is going to be a pretty easy case.”...