Towns lose battle over housing laws aimed at undocumented immigrants

BY Ellen Rolfes  March 3, 2014 at 5:52 PM EDT
Photo by Time Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Time Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected requests Monday to review appeals from towns in Texas and Pennsylvania over lower court rulings that overturned local housing laws targeted towards undocumented immigrants.

Farmers Branch, Texas and Hazelton, Penn., unsatisfied with federal enforcement of immigration law, hoped the ordinances would ensure that renters were lawfully present in the U.S. The ordinances required landlords to collect various information and “proper” identification from tenants, and for renters to obtain a renter’s license. This data could be handed over to immigration authorities and include penalties for landlords who rented to undocumented immigrants. City officials could deny licenses to anyone found to be in the town illegally.

Groups for tenants, landlords, employers and workers challenged the ordinances in court and won. This prompted the towns to seek reviews of their appeals by the nation’s highest court. Reuters reports that the appeals courts overruled the local ordinances because they conflicted federal government’s role as the primary enforcer of immigration law.

In the case of Farmers Branch, a Dallas suburb, the eight-year legal battles cost more than $6 million.