When Is a Landlord Not a Border Patrol Officer?

The failure of the Farmers Branch immigration ordinance sends out a strong message to local and state lawmakers.

A strong message has been sent to Texas lawmakers – leave immigration law to the Feds.

Yesterday, the city of Farmers Branch (a wonderfully pastoral misnomer, since it's basically a suburb of Dallas now) was blocked from enacting a statute that would have made landlords check the immigration status of anyone to whom they were renting – meaning anyone with a spare room for lease would suddenly become an immigration officer. Only without the training, resources, or any kind of real data base. In handing down his 10-day temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay said in his 20-page judgment that, basically, the city had no constitutional right to pass a law like this.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit against the ordinance, which was also opposed by many local landlords. It would have shifted a basic tenet of Texas immigration practice of "don't ask, don't tell" – something that a whole bunch of state-level bills this Lege session tried to do and were shot down for attempting. Ask yourself – would you know the difference between a real and a forged OPT Card? Do you even know what an OPT card is?

Lindsay said that it wasn't immigration itself that was at stake, but that it was an unconstitutional violation of the rule-making powers of the Federal government. Yep, the pesky pre-emption clause of the Constitution (Article VI, Section I, Clause II, for all you budding constitutionalists), the one that says federal always trumps state or local when it's a federal issue, has long held immigration to be a federal issue.

Even though the city has founded a legal defense fund to fight this, it's very unlikely that a higher court would find against the underlying rules of the separation of powers in the nation.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More State Government
Straus' Budget Stretch
Straus' Budget Stretch
Committee member casts doubt on speaker's deficit proposals

Richard Whittaker, May 12, 2010

Keel Repeat
Keel Repeat
Former state rep to head up Texas Facilities Commission

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 17, 2009

More Immigration
Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez Steps Down
Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez Steps Down
Embattled CEO/founder departs amid protests, investigations

Mary Tuma, March 11, 2019

Texas Dems Want Stronger Immigrant Detention Oversight
Texas Dems Want Stronger Immigrant Detention Oversight
More than 5,000 immigrant children in detention centers

Mary Tuma, July 31, 2018

More by Richard Whittaker
One in a Crowd: Vulcan Video Needs Your Help
One in a Crowd: Vulcan Video Needs Your Help
Keep the tapes rolling at Austin's VHS and DVD institution

May 23, 2019

RTX Orders a <i>Stuber</i>
RTX Orders a Stuber
Rooster Teeth snags special screening of the SXSW favorite

May 23, 2019


State Government, Farmers Branch, Immigration

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle