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Farmers Branch Still Fighting For Illegal Immigrant Ban

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DALLAS (AP) - A Dallas suburb that has tried to ban housing rents by illegal immigrants will continue its appeals court fight for the ban, an attorney for the city said Thursday.

A federal judge in Dallas had blocked Farmers Branch from implementing a city ordinance barring illegal immigrants from renting and penalizing landlords who rent to them. Last month, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower-court ruling.

Now, Farmers Branch has decided to appeal the ruling to the full New Orleans-based appeals court, Kris Kobach, an attorney for the city, told The Associated Press on Thursday. Koback said he expects the whole court to grant a review and uphold the law based on previous court rulings.

“The entire court will have difficulty swallowing the analysis of the two judges in the majority,” said Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and an advocate for tougher anti-illegal immigration laws.

Farmers Branch has spent nearly $5 million on immigration-related lawsuits, mostly over a city ordinance that would bar illegal immigrants from renting and penalize landlords that rent to them.

“Litigation like this is very front-loaded,” Kobach said.

The fight has pushed Farmers Branch, a quiet collection of bedroom communities and office parks, into the national debate about illegal immigration. Local Latinos say it also has made U.S. citizens and legal immigrants feel unwelcome in the city, where the Latino population has fallen in recent years.

City officials and law backers argue that illegal immigrants strain local schools and police resources. They also note that local voters supported an early version of the law five years ago by a 2-to-1 margin.

Farmers Branch’s City Council, which has never included a Latino, has in recent years declared English to be the city’s official language and resisted efforts to shift voting from an at-large system, which Latinos say dilutes their voice. The council first passed a rental ban in 2006, but replaced it two years later on the advice of its attorneys.

The new law would require all renters to obtain a city license and the city’s building inspector to check the status of any applicant who wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Illegal immigrants would be denied a renter’s permit, and landlords who knowingly allowed them to stay could have their renter’s license barred.

A federal judge put that law on hold after landlords and renters sued the city, and courts have continued to block it — most recently on Wednesday by the 5th Circuit.

Similar bans pushed in other cities, most notably Fremont, Neb., and Hazleton, Pa., are in the middle of similar court fights.

A judge recently allowed Fremont to require renters to obtain a permit but stopped the city from revoking the permits if renters were found to be illegal immigrants.

Hazleton’s law, which would sanction business owners for employing illegal immigrants and property owners for renting to them, also is on hold. But backers will get a new hearing because the Supreme Court last year, citing its decision in another case, vacated a federal appeals court’s ruling against the law.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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