Third Strike Against Farmers Branch, Texas [on federal law]

For the constitutional scholars, what makes a city think it can enforce and change federal law?

" DALLAS (CN) - For the third time, a judge has ruled that Farmers Branch, Texas, violated the Constitution by enacting an ordinance that banned undocumented immigrants from renting apartments in the city, and barred landlords from renting to them.

 U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle said the ordinance was an attempt to enforce federal immigration laws, which only the federal government can do.  "Ordinance 2952 is a regulation of immigration and is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because the authority to regulate immigration is exclusively a federal power," Boyle wrote. "The ordinance applies federal immigration classifications for purposes not authorized or contemplated by federal law. As a result, the ordinance creates an additional restriction on alien residence in the city."

It was the city’s third effort to drive Latinos out of town. The plaintiffs - apartment owners and tenants - called it racial discrimination. The city claimed it was an effort to support federal immigration law and to address the secondary effects of illegal immigration."

Clearly, the Constitution does not allow cities to enforce federal law. However, this begs the question. What are other levels of government to do when the federal government refuses to enforce its own laws? Federalism requires some level of trust and oversight between the levels. Unfortunately, on the immigration issue, and others, local government increasingly believe they cannot rely on either the abilities or the intent of the federal government.

The plaintiffs felt that the city intended more than enforcing immigration laws.

It appears, at first read, that the Court’s issue was with the approach taken, not necessarily the end-result.

I am surprised that it struck down the requirement to show proof of citizenship or immigration status. I believe both of these are required to open a bank account under the Patriot Act. I am also surprised that the Court struck down the town’s enactment of HUD classifications - again for enforcement, not for content, though I would not be surprised to see the classifications subsequently challenged in court.

It seems like it would be reasonable for the town to allow landlords to require asking for a valid SSN or alien identification number - since this is what businesses must do upon hiring a new employee. The implication is that undocumented immigrants have the right to rent an apartment but not to work.

Citizenship and bank rules are part of federal law.

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