The Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has been in the news for a couple of years now because of its efforts to run undocumented immigrants out of the city. The city leaders have attempted to do this by passing ordinances making it illegal to rent apartments or houses to such immigrants.
Unfortunately for the city, these ordinances keep getting shot down in court as unconstitutional, and the city has been forced to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs who sue the city over the ordinances. After the latest adverse ruling, the Farmers Branch City Council voted this month to appeal the federal court judgment.
The rationale for the appeal is that this time the decision will be made by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is notoriously conservative. The city believes this court will be more likely to ignore or overturn other court opinions and decide that the ordinance is indeed constitutional.
The city’s outside counsel has estimated the legal fees for an appeal could range from $100,000 to $150,000. Thus far, Farmers Branch has spent about $3.2 million trying to get illegal immigrants out of town, and has set aside another $620,000 for the remainder of 2010. By some estimates, the total legal costs could be more than $5 million by the end of this year. That’s a lot of money for a city with a population of about 30,000.
For several years I lived in Carrollton, the suburb immediately north of Farmers Branch. I worked in Dallas, immediately south of Farmers Branch. So I passed through Farmers Branch at least twice each day, and actually was in the city far more than that. It’s a nice town, with nice people. I hate to see all the negative publicity they are getting, although I do strongly disagree with their attempts to drive immigrants from Farmers Branch.
I know Farmers Branch has much more pressing needs for the money they are spending on these federal court appeals. Road maintenance, libraries, activities for senior citizens, and many other city projects are left wanting. That’s a sad situation, and unfair to the residents of Farmers Branch.