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Federal appeals court upholds ban on Texas city immigrant housing ordinance

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that an ordinance [text, PDF] passed in 2008 by the Texas city of Farmers Branch, prohibiting illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] from renting housing in the city, is unconstitutional. The law required prospective renters to attest to being in the country legally, and landlords who knowingly allowed aliens to rent property faced the possibility of having their rental licenses revoked. The appeals court held that the ordinance is designed simply to burden aliens and does not serve any legitimate city interest. The court concluded:

Because the sole purpose and effect of this ordinance is to target the presence of illegal aliens within the City of Farmers Branch and to cause their removal, it contravenes the federal government's exclusive authority over the regulation of immigration and the conditions of residence in this country, and it constitutes an obstacle to federal authority over immigration and the conduct of foreign affairs.
The court affirmed the decision by the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas [official website] to issue [JURIST report] a permanent injunction [opinion, PDF] against the ordinance in 2010, finding this to be "a national problem, needing a national solution."

In 2008, a temporary injunction was issued [JURIST report] against the enforcement of the ordinance. In the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] filed earlier in 2008 [JURIST report], several landlords and a former City Council member challenged the constitutionality of Ordinance 2952, alleging it denied immigrants equal protection and due process rights. The city passed the ordinance after a previous law was struck down [JURIST reports] by a US district judge in 2007 as an infringement of federal supremacy in the area of immigration.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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