The unrest in Farmers Branch began with a killing. On a May night in 2006, a dozen or more reports from an assault rifle rang out in a working-class neighborhood on the west side of town, near Josey Lane. A truck sped away, and Jesus Gallegos checked his house for bullet holes. Then he picked up his 18-month-old daughter, Eva Marie. The toddler was dead, a bullet through her tiny skull. Three weeks later, police arrested two acquaintances of Gallegos they believed were responsible. Police said they were suspected illegal immigrants.

The call for a crackdown came swiftly. "We need to address illegal immigration in our city and we need to do it now," O'Hare, who had been elected the year before, wrote to his fellow council members. "Drive around our city. [Councilman Bob Moses] said he doesn't want our city to become a ghetto. Half of our city already is. More of it will be if we don't do something quickly.

"I do not like to use a little girl's death to support a point, but the truth is more people will die if we don't take action."

Former parks and recreation chief Jeff Fuller defeated council incumbent Michelle Holmes, drawing support from both sides of the immigration debate.
Former parks and recreation chief Jeff Fuller defeated council incumbent Michelle Holmes, drawing support from both sides of the immigration debate.
Michelle Holmes
Michelle Holmes

O'Hare did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, but in an email to then-council member Charlie Bird that June, he wrote, "My family has been here since 1956 and almost everyone that I consider family lives here. I don't want us to have to move. I don't want to have to live somewhere else. But, I'm not going to live in Oak Cliff, which is what we are becoming and going to become if we don't make some serious changes and spend some money. ... I personally believe that the type of families and development we want in our city will be encouraged if we took steps to drive out illegals."

Sometime that August, David Koch, a local real-estate attorney, reached out to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization that advocates for a sweeping immigration moratorium. In the previous several months, IRLI and Kobach had written ordinances to prevent undocumented immigrants from renting apartments in Valley Park, Missouri, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Koch conveyed the council's receptiveness to similar measures. Soon, the council received a copy of a model law from IRLI.

Farmers Branch was an ideal candidate to test out the group's ordinances. Like Valley Park and Hazleton, Farmers Branch was a small town that had seen its Hispanic population soar. And though the data didn't support it, many of each town's white residents believed that illegal immigrants were responsible for more crime, more school crowding and decreasing property values.

Farmers Branch, City Manager Gary Greer would later admit, had no hard numbers indicating just how much of the Latino population was undocumented, or any data on what kind of impact illegal immigration had.

Police Chief Sid Fuller said, "Are they responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime? That's not the case. That's not what we've seen."

But town leaders dreamed of transforming Farmers Branch. City Council members had visions of young families with disposable income. In the council chambers, the drumbeat was growing louder, though it wasn't directed solely at illegal immigrants. Councilman Ben Robinson recommended that August that the public library pull foreign-language materials from the shelves. O'Hare recommended cutting funding for the children of undocumented immigrants attending a summer youth program.

Several hundred protestors hoisting American flags marched on City Hall that month, chanting "O'Hare must go! O'Hare must go!"

Mayor Bob Phelps, a septuagenarian insurance salesman who'd been a fixture of Farmers Branch government since 1986, appealed for calm. In an open letter, he wrote, "... This problem will not be resolved by local governments throwing tax dollars at a problem that will only cost more tax dollars in lengthy litigation."

The previous city manager, responding to a query from Robinson about the advisability of an ordinance preventing day laborers from gathering within the city limits, warned of a lengthy, expensive and pointless fight ahead. "It is important to note that lawsuits such as the one currently pending against Hazleton are not covered by the city's insurance policy. Therefore, the city would have to assume 100 percent of the legal costs," Linda Groomer wrote. "In the meantime, the very same issues are being litigated by somebody else with somebody else's money, namely Hazleton. I strongly recommend against spending local FB tax dollars to join a legal battle."

On September 5, 2006, the council sent a resolution to President George W. Bush and every city council and federal representative in the state. Every conceivable societal ill was laid at the feet of the immigrant population. The residents of Farmers Branch, it read, "are worried and concerned about the impact of illegal aliens on our national security, crime rates, illicit drug trade, the negative impacts on property values, public schools, Parkland (hospital system) ... taxes, welfare costs, and other potential major problems."

Unless the federal government dealt with illegal immigration quickly, Farmers Branch would "take whatever steps it legally can."

The town was ready to boil over. In early November, less than a year after Mayor Phelps and his wife moved into their new home in the revitalized Branch Crossing neighborhood, vandals spray-painted the words "Viva Mexicos [sic]" in 6-foot-tall letters on an outside wall. Within a year, someone hurled a rock through his window. Phelps says he later got a visit from two FBI agents. "They asked 'Do you think the Hispanics did this?' I said, 'Shoot no! They know how to spell Mexico!'"

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7 comments
Guest 2
Guest 2

Well, I'm a proud liberal who lives in an area (Pleasant Grove) where Hispanics have taken over, and this is not a good thing for the neighborhoods. I have to agree with "Guest" below. Most of these people do not know how to assimilate into the community and live accordingly. They are arrogant, have no sense of pride in their properties, and they allow their animals to run rampant. They also allow their children (which are many), to trespass on other's property. I know other races do this also, but not to the extent of Hispanics. Hopefully, I'll be able to get out of this hell-hole before I die.

Aurora Stlaurent
Aurora Stlaurent

Regardless of where you live, you must understand that there is an expectation to follow suit with expectations or make the place even better. Skin color is not important, but upholding moral integrity, honor those around you, supporting education, and the like are why people still need to fight for their towns and cities. It is just such a shame that some underlying bigotry may have surfaced when the new rules and laws should have been stricter ordinances for all, higher expectations for apartment complexes to uphold with the leases, etc. it is not too late to encourage and enforce expectations so that people who are law abiding and want a better life are given a fair shake. Many people I personally know left The Branch over the past few years because the law is not maintaining safety and expectation. If students aren't attending school and performing increase court fines, increase noise ordinances, institute city housing expectations or rather actually monitor, ticket, and expect change from all community members both sides of web chapel.

Daisy
Daisy

Seriously. I live in Oak Cliff and like it too. In fact, I've lived in Dallas or the surrounding area for more than 50 years and I can't remember going to Farmer's Branch for anything. I drive through it to go to Lewisville and Denton, but I've never stopped there.

xerox0001
xerox0001

The Truth Hurts! Hey liberals, screaming racism won't help you anymore. The fact is, the vast majority of Mexicans living in the southern united states are ILLEGAL ALIENS. Where do they get off thinking the US "owes" them anything? THEY ARE BREAKING THE LAW. How would they like it if a bunch of illegal "gringos" showed up in their Mexican towns and started demanding that the locals speak English, pay for our schooling and medical bills, and allow us to vote and run for office? Maybe we should, then the US wouldn't have to baby-sit Mexico all the damn time because Felipe Calderón can't clean up the sh-t in his own backyard. So he sends it all to America and then has the gall to call us racist or bigots for wanting to protect our own borders and sovereignty and trying to keep the violent mexican drug cartels OUT of our country! SCREW HIM and F--K THIRD WORLD MEXICO.

OC Robbie
OC Robbie

"But, I'm not going to live in Oak Cliff, which is what we are becoming and going to become if we don't make some serious changes and spend some money." Tim O'Hare just shows his ignorance with this statement. Farmers Branch should strive to be like Oak Cliff - a community of diverse people, beautiful historic homes and a thriving dining and entertainment district. When was the last time you heard a group of friends say :let's meet in FB for drinks and dinner and then catch some live music"? Bashing another community to make a point just shows his true character - biased.

American Dreamer
American Dreamer

from humanevents.com/2007/07/20/founding-fathers-were-immigration-skeptics/ "In one of the most neglected sections of his Notes on Virginia, Thomas Jefferson posed the question, “Are there no inconveniences to be thrown into the scale against the advantage expected by a multiplication of numbers by the importation of foreigners?” What was likely to happen, according to Jefferson, was that immigrants would come to America from countries that would have given them no experience living in a free society. They would bring with them the ideas and principles of the governments they left behind --ideas and principles that were often at odds with American liberty. “Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France, what would be the condition of that kingdom?” Jefferson asked. “If it would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here.”

 
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