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Courts Reject Another Farmers Branch Renters Ordinance

Bill Zeeble

A Farmers Branch ordinance that would have forced renters to prove their U.S. citizenship before renting has again been rejected by the courts. But the Farmers Branch mayor wants city leaders to talk one more time about reviving the ordinance.

By a 9 to 6 vote, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans Monday rejected the Farmers Branch ordinance. Judges called it unconstitutional because only the federal government has authority over immigration policy.   

That may not slow Farmers Branch Mayor Bill Glancy, even as legal fees have risen to $6 million and climbing.  

“If you believe something’s morally right, do you put a dollar sense on it?”

Glancy criticizes courts that have repeatedly found the city’s renters’ ordinances unconstitutional.

“I don’t think at this point we know enough about it to even make a decision about whether there should be an appeal or not.”

Glancy says two thirds of Farmers Branch residents approved the ordinance years ago and he stands by the will of the people. And while some have criticized the ordinances in a town that’s nearly 50 percent Hispanic, he says some crimes are, arguably, down, while the economy’s up. He says the ordinance brought positives.

“I can’t equate that what has happened has been negative to that effect. Maybe some people didn’t’ come here because of that, but maybe a lot of them did come here before that.”

Glancy likes to tell this campaign story. He was knocking on doors three years ago and met a mother with two children. She and her husband had moved to Farmers Branch because, she told Glancy, it seemed like the city, with its new ordinance, was trying to stabilize communities.

“It will be safe for these children to run around in the yard,  she told Glancy,  and I wasn’t going to have a rent house stuck next door with a who-knows stuffed in it. That would be a concern to us. And she looked me right in the eye and said ‘I don’t want anything you didn’t have 40 years ago. Do you think that’s unfair of me to ask?”

That story bothers Bill Brewer. He’s the attorney who, with Bickel and Brewer Storefront,  repeatedly and successfully challenged the Farmers Branch renters’ ordinances.

“Look. Change is challenging to some people, but change is afoot. I would have hoped as we have in the past that a more enlightened view would predominate and that everyone would get on with the business of cooperation and deal with the fact that change has come to Farmers Branch  as it has to so many other communities in Texas.”

It’s time for this, say John and Anna Lucio, a married couple who work in Farmers Branch off Josey Lane.

“It was a lot of spent money for not much gain,” said John Lucio.

“It’s good it wasn’t passed,” said Anna Lucio, standing next to their car before heading back to work after lunch. “And everybody’s equal, they’re entitled to live where they should want to live.”

It’s unclear what legal actions, if any, Farmers Branch will consider next.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.