Fifth Circuit Affirms Farmers Branch Housing Ordinance As Unconstitutional Targeting of Undocumented Immigrants

Ruling caps five-year legal battle over latest unlawful ordinance enacted by the City of Farmer’s Branch, costing taxpayers millions

New Orleans, LA – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the City of Farmers Branch, located outside of Dallas, TX, violated the Constitution by passing a housing ordinance aimed at driving out Latinos. The court held that “the ordinance’s sole purpose is not to regulate housing but to exclude undocumented [immigrants], specifically Latinos.” The Fifth Circuit further held that the City of Farmers Branch’s Ordinance 2952 is an unconstitutional and invalid regulation of immigration and “constitutes an obstacle to federal authority over immigration and the conduct of foreign affairs.” Today’s ruling affirms the permanent injunction issued by the district court on March 25, 2010, which has since blocked implementation of the ordinance.

The challenge was brought by MALDEF, the ACLU and the ACLU of Texas.

“Today's decision soundly rejected Farmers Branch's immigration scheme which was really designed to push out Latinos” stated Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation at MALDEF and attorney who successfully argued the case before the Fifth Circuit on October 4, 2011. “The federal courts have made clear that cities cannot make their own immigration laws and target residents for expulsion simply because of their race or nationality,” continued Perales.

Ordinance 2952 is the latest in a series of anti-immigrant ordinances enacted by the City of Farmers Branch, Texas. Past unsuccessful legislative efforts to pass anti-immigrant ordinances – both blocked by MALDEF and ACLU attorneys – include Ordinance 2892 and its later replacement Ordinance 2903. These past ordinances sought to require landlords of apartment complexes to verify that every person living in an apartment in the City, was a United States citizen or an eligible immigrant. Defense of the series of cases has cost taxpayers for the City of Farmers Branch millions of dollars.

“Other Texas municipalities should pay close heed to what the 5th Circuit held today,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. “Farmers Branch has invested over 5 years and literally millions of its residents’ taxpayer dollars in costly litigation trying to regulate immigration. As the Court held, immigration regulation is a ‘national problem that needs a national solution.’ It is time for Farmers Branch to give up its mean-spirited and quixotic efforts to do the federal government’s job.” ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project (ACLU IRP) has served as co-counsel on the case.

Today’s appellate ruling follows the March 2010 determination by the U.S. District Court that Ordinance 2952 was preempted by federal law.

In concluding its ruling, the Fifth Circuit stated that:

“This country has a large Latino population and millions of Latinos live here without legal permission. However, the great majority live quietly, raise families, obey the law daily, and do work for our country. For all that they contribute to our welfare, they live in constant dread of being apprehended as [undocumented immigrants] and being evicted, perhaps having their families disrupted. As unsatisfactory as this situation is it is the immigration scheme we have today…

“Because the sole purpose and effect of this ordinance is to target the presence of [undocumented immigrants] within the City of Farmers Branch and to cause their removal, it contravenes the federal government’s exclusive authority over the regulation of immigration and the conditions of residence in this country, and it constitutes an obstacle to federal authority over immigration and the conduct of foreign affairs. The ordinance is unconstitutional, and the judgment of the district court is affirmed.”

Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said: “Today's decision conclusively rejects Farmers Branch’s unconstitutional attempt to turn a municipal law into an anti-immigrant weapon. It is another defeat for the ‘self-deportation’ movement and the latest example why states and cities should not be implementing hateful policies that lead to racial profiling and violate people’s fundamental rights.”

Coalition Contacts

Laura Rodriguez, MALDEF or call (310) 956-2425

Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national or call (212) 284-7347 or (212) 549-2666

Dotty Griffith, ACLU or call (832) 291-4776

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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