Dallas, Texas (WiredPRNews.com) — In November 2006, the city of Farmers Branch, Texas hit the spotlight when its city council became the first in the state to pass anti-illegal immigration measures. Ratified by City residents on May 12, 2007, Farmers Branch, an inner-ring suburb just north of Dallas, became the first in the nation to pass an ordinance preventing illegal immigrants from renting housing in its city limits.
One of the several issues with the ordinance that were challenged by various plaintiffs in the federal courts, was that it put significant onus on landlords to root out illegal immigrants. If the landlord made a mistake or was unable to clearly discern the immigration status of the tenant, and thus rented to an illegal immigrant, that landlord could face fines of as much as $500 for every day they are found to be in violation of the ordinance.
Shortly after the law’s passage, the Dallas business litigation law firm of Eberstein & Witherite partnered with The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which was spearheading the litigation against the Farmers Branch ordinance, and the Texas Apartment Association, which was gravely concerned about the City’s landlords. On June 4, 2007, Eberstein & Witherite filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas seeking an injunction against the Texas suburb’s recently adopted anti-immigration housing law.
On a pro bono basis, Eberstein & Witherite’s Brian Eberstein and Amy Witherite, on behalf of the Texas Apartment Association, argued that this ordinance would place an undue burden on landlords. Mr. Eberstein and Ms. Witherite claimed that the ordinance made landlords de facto U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, requiring them to check immigrants’ documents and establish the documents authenticity.
After presenting their arguments to Judge Sam A. Lindsay of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the dedicated business dispute lawyers at Eberstein & Witherite were successful in obtaining an injunction on behalf of their client on June 19, 2007.
As a result of the injunction, the city council rewrote the anti-illegal immigration ordinance to take the burden off of the landlord.
Although the landlord issue no longer persists, the Farmers Branch anti-illegal immigrant ordinance is still being challenged in the courts by other plaintiffs on several constitutional grounds, such as the Constitution’s Supremacy and Contract clauses, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses, and the First Amendment. The Constitutional claims are being litigated by various not-for-profit organizations spearheaded by The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.
To find more on Eberstein & Witherite visit the Dallas Business Litigation Lawyers Web Site.