Say This For Farmers Branch: They Do Stick to Their Guns

Categories: News

By now, no doubt, you've read The Dallas Morning News' piece about Farmers Branch's tenacity: Despite the fact the federal courts have all but killed Ordinance 2903, which called for punishing landlords who knowingly rented to illegal immigrants, the city council next week will once more consider a revised ordinance that will allow only legal U.S. residents to live in the city's single-family homes and multi-family apartment complexes. Here we go again.

This morning, we received from our neighbors downstairs a big ol' package on the new ordinance, which Farmers Branch will take up at council on Tuesday. After the jump, the media release announcing the proposal and a "summary of key provisions" found in the ordinance. Oh -- and here's the entire 13-page ordinance, which you won't find on The News' site. So you can be prepared. --Robert Wilonsky

Farmers Branch Officials Consider New Ordinance to Address Illegal Immigration

January 18, 2007 -- The Farmers Branch City Council is considering a new ordinance designed to assure that renters of single-family and multi-family residences in the city are in the United States legally. The proposal would require anyone wishing to lease a house or apartment in Farmers Branch to provide information about legal U.S. residency in applying for a residential occupancy license from the city.

In 2006 the Farmers Branch City Council passed City Ordinance 2903 which required landlords to verify the immigration and citizenship status of all potential residents. Although that ordinance was later approved by a more than two-thirds majority of voters in a citywide referendum, a variety of legal challenges have prevented that ordinance from being implemented.

“We believe this new proposal addresses many of the legal and political concerns expressed regarding Ordinance 2903 and can successfully withstand any constitutional challenges,” says Michael Jung, attorney with Strasburger & Price LLP. The firm was retained by the city in 2007 to manage litigation related to Ordinance 2903 and to examine alternative approaches by the city to restrict illegal immigration.

“Federal law allows state and local governments to address illegal immigration issues in ways that are compatible and consistent with federal law,” says Jung. “Farmers Branch and other governments across the nation are trying a number of different approaches to meet that standard, and we’re confident this ordinance passes that test.”

A significant difference in the new ordinance is that a landlord would not be responsible for verifying the legal residency status of potential renters. That responsibility would shift entirely to the federal government as part of the process in the city’s issuance of an occupancy license.

As outlined in the proposal, when a prospective resident completes a rental application and pays a small fee, a member of the city’s Building Inspection staff would immediately issue an occupancy license to the applicant. The license fee would be $5 for each adult occupant, and would be valid as long as the occupant remains at that residence or within the same multi-family complex.

In the case of a non-citizen, the city would submit data from the application to the federal government in order to verify the immigration status of the license holder. If federal authorities cannot confirm an individual’s legal residency status, the license holder and landlord would be notified by mail of the discrepancy and the occupant would have 60 days to provide proof of legal residency. If that proof is not presented, the city would notify both the occupant and landlord and revoke the occupancy license. Anyone violating any of the ordinance provisions would be subject to a daily municipal fine of up to $500.

Language in the proposal specifies that the ordinance would only become effective based on the date of the U.S. District Court’s ruling in pending litigation regarding Ordinance 2903.

The city council is scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance as part of its regular meeting agenda on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Farmers Branch City Hall, 13000 William Dodson Parkway.

Overview of Proposed Revised Ordinance

Background

The Farmers Branch City Council is considering a new ordinance designed to assure that renters of single-family and multi-family residences in the city are in the United States legally.

Summary of Key Provisions

* Anyone wishing to lease a house or apartment in Farmers Branch must apply for a residential occupancy license from the city and provide information about legal U.S. residency.

* Landlords would not be responsible for verifying the legal residency status of potential renters; that responsibility would lie entirely with the federal government.

* The proposed license fee would be $5 for each adult occupant, and would be valid as long as the occupant remains at that residence or within the same multi-family complex.

* Anyone violating any of the provisions would face a daily municipal fine of up to $500.

* Language in the proposal specifies that the ordinance would only become effective based on the date of the U.S. District Court’s ruling in pending litigation regarding Ordinance 2903

Summary of Application Process

* When an application is completed and fee paid, a member of the city’s Building Inspection staff would immediately issue an occupancy license, allowing the applicant to promptly move into the property.

* In the case of a non-citizen, the city would submit data from the application to the federal government in order to verify the immigration status of the license holder.

* If federal authorities do not confirm an individual’s legal residency status, the license holder and landlord would be notified by mail of the discrepancy and the occupant would have 60 days to provide proof of legal residency.

* If that proof is not presented, the city would notify both the occupant and landlord and revoke the occupancy license.

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