FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – Voters will get the chance to decide whether this city should keep a new rule requiring apartment landlords to verify the citizenship or immigration status of their tenants.
During a meeting Monday, the City Council voted to put a rental ordinance they approved late last year on the ballot May 12. But in the meantime, the council plans to let the new rule take effect Friday.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund plans to ask the courts for an injunction to immediately suspend the ordinance from being enforced, fund staff attorney Marisol Perez said by phone Monday night.
"I don't know why they're doing this. There's no upside on this. They're going to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Elizabeth Villafranca, president of the Farmers Branch chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
More than 1,200 registered voters from Farmers Branch have signed a petition in hopes of forcing a vote on the measures, far exceeding the number required to force a vote, attorney William Brewer said.
In November, the City Council unanimously approved requiring property managers or owners verify the immigration or citizenship status of apartment renters. Those who break the rule face a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $500. Council members also approved resolutions making English the city's official language and allowing local authorities to become part of a federal program so they can enforce immigration laws.
Farmers Branch, north of Dallas, has changed since 1970 from a small, mostly white bedroom community to a city of almost 28,000 that is 37 percent Hispanic, according to the census.
Nationwide, more than 60 municipalities have considered, passed or rejected similar laws, but Farmers Branch became the first city to match the trend in immigrant-heavy Texas.
Since then, judges in California and Pennsylvania have blocked similar ordinances.