IRLI Files Brief in Farmers Branch Supreme Court case


November 23, 2013

The Immigration Reform Law Institute filed a friend of the court brief in the United States Supreme Court urging the court to review a Fifth Circuit decision invalidating a Farmers Branch, Texas ordinance that requires adult renters to obtain a rental license. The Ordinance requires the city to verify the immigration status of all non-citizens issued rental licenses, and the city housing inspector must order landlords to terminate rental agreements with non-citizens who the federal government confirms are not lawfully present the United States.

The Fifth Circuit, in a fractured opinion among the 21 judges of the court, affirmed a district court opinion which found the Ordinance preempted.

The Farmers Branch Ordinance is one of three similar ordinances that attempts to deal with illegal immigration in a city by discouraging landlords from knowingly renting to illegal aliens. The other ordinances were enacted by Hazleton, Pennsylvania and Fremont, Nebraska. The Fremont ordinance has been upheld by an Eight Circuit Appeals court, while the Hazleton ordinance was overturned by the Third Circuit on the ground that it conflicted with federal supremacy in the field of immigration law–similar to the reasons of the Fifth Circuit. With three different rulings on the legality of three similar local laws, a judicial conflict has been created, a task historically undertaken by the United States Supreme Court.

The City of Farmers Branch petitioned the Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision. The City described multiple conflicts in the Fifth Circuit ruling on the question of whether and how local immigration actions conflict with federal law. The City petitions states that the ruling conflicts both with decisions of other federal appeal courts, and with previous decisions concerning state and local immigration enforcement in the Fifth Circuit itself.

IRLI filed a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court to act now. The IRLI brief addresses the Fifth Circuit’s incorrect use of preemption doctrine which would effectively preempt all state and local laws if the decision were allowed to stand. Specifically, IRLI addresses the issue that Congress has encouraged states to assist in immigration enforcement and communicate with the federal government regarding immigration status. The IRLI brief also addresses the wide Circuit split regarding the meaning of “harboring” an illegal alien in federal law. IRLI hopes that its brief will help convince the Supreme Court to hear the case. IRLI expects a decision on whether the Supreme Court will review the case sometime in January.

The case is Villas at Parkside v. City of Farmers Branch, Petition #13-516. The IRLI amicus brief is attached here. The City’s Petition is also attached here.

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