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Activists Ask State Judge To Overturn Farmers Branch Illegal Immigrant Ban

DALLAS (AP) – Opponents of a Dallas suburb’s latest attempt to drive away illegal immigrants want a state court judge to stop Farmers Branch from enforcing a ban on home rentals to those who can’t prove they live legally in the country.

They’re seeking a temporary restraining order to keep Farmers Branch from requiring prospective apartment and house renters to obtain a city license.

The requirement is part of an ordinance set to take effect Saturday. Under the rule, the city would forward information from the license application to the federal government for verification of a tenant’s immigration status.

The request is part of a lawsuit alleging the Farmers Branch City Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it drafted and approved the new rule earlier this year. The lawsuit was filed in February on behalf of real estate broker Guillermo Ramos, a Farmers Branch resident who also has opposed the previous related ordinances.

It is one of several suits Farmers Branch faces in a continuing nearly two-year battle over measures attempting to keep illegal immigrants from living in the city of about 28,000. The proposed ordinances have been met by lawsuits and protests, and a judge found a previous city immigration-related housing rule to be unconstitutional.

Farmers Branch officials were already prevented from enforcing a ban on leasing apartments to illegal immigrants when they approved the new rule in January.

The suit alleges that while the council was supposed to discuss legal issues in the case about that immigration-related ordinance, it actually drafted a new, more sweeping measure behind closed doors.

E-mails and other evidence in the suit show council members were reviewing and discussing drafts of the rental ban at least six months before the ordinance was shown to the public, said attorney Bill Brewer, who represents Ramos in the state suit and others in a federal suit.

“There were prior drafts of it circulating among city council members. They went through multiple drafts and essentially made the decision that they rubber stamped in public.”

Attorney Michael Jung, who represents Farmers Branch in thesuit, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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