By all rights, this story should now be at an end.
The U.S. Supreme Court brought closure Monday to the seven-year legal battle in Farmers Branch over a local ordinance that sought to ban landlords from renting property to people who are in the U.S. unlawfully.
The high court declined to review a lower-court ruling that declared the ordinance unconstitutional.
The measure was never enforced, but it fractured the suburb of about 29,000 residents and saddled its budget with more than $6.1 million in legal expenses. Bills of more than $2 million are pending. Payment was stalled by three different appeals.
“After more than seven years of litigation, during which the city lost at every stage, it is time for Farmers Branch to let go of its immigration ordinance,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the firms that sued the city over the ordinance.
Perales said the Supreme Court sent “a strong message that local immigration laws are unconstitutional and hurt cities because they waste precious resources and undermine community relationships.”
Junie Smith, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a former Farmers Branch City Council member, said she was celebrating the decision. “This is a two wine-cooler night,” she said.
Smith said she hopes it heals her city. “What hopes do I have for the city? Unity and a desire to move forward as a community.”
The persistence of the fight in Farmers Branch brought the suburb national celebrity. Its outside counsel, Kris Kobach of Kansas City, has litigated on behalf of other cities around the nation to test the power of local governments to discourage illegal immigration.
Kobach said that the legal fight is over.
“Many states and cities are still looking at ways they can discourage illegal immigration and reduce the costs. It remains a very live issue, and we are obviously very disappointed the Supreme Court didn’t step in on this,” said Kobach, who worked on the case for Dallas-based Strasburger and Price, which was retained by the city.
The Supreme Court also declined Monday to resurrect an ordinance in Hazleton, Pa. That ordinance, which was struck down by an appellate court, would have banned immigrants who are in the U.S. unlawfully from renting housing.
In addition to the $6.1 million it spent through February on expenses related to the illegal immigration lawsuits, the city spent about $850,000 to fight two voting rights suits.
The city estimates award of pending bills from opposing lawyers to be in the $1.5 million to $2 million range, said Charles Cox, Farmers Branch’s managing director of finance and city administration. That decision will be made by a federal judge.
Meanwhile, Bill Brewer of Bickel & Brewer said, “This is over. … Our hope is that the city will close this unfortunate chapter in its history and begin to embrace the changing demographics of the community – as part of a more inclusive and dynamic future.”
See here for all of my obsessive blogging about Farmers Branch. I too hope that the city will move on and pursue more just and productive endeavors. Ending their association with a hateful grifter like Kris Kobach would be an excellent first step. Hair Balls has more.