A week later, the council unleashed a legislative landslide against undocumented immigrants and the foreign-born. It designated English as the city's official language, seeking to "preserve the rights of those who speak only English" by taking down municipal signs in Spanish and by scrubbing foreign languages from city paperwork.

It authorized the city manager to pursue an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train a police officer to screen for suspected undocumented immigrants.

The council accepted a report from a group of locals tasked with creating a plan to revitalize the city. A few factors, the task force concluded, had prevented Farmers Branch from seeing the kind of development taking place in booming outer-ring suburbs. There was plenty of housing, but it was mostly affordable, 1,200-square-foot single-family homes the task force saw as the city's bane. But that wasn't Farmers Branch's only problem. "The City's Hispanic population increased from about 5 percent to 37 percent between 1970 and 2000 and continues to grow at a rate exceeding all other ethnic and racial populations in the City," the task force observed.

At the height of the immigration debate, then-Mayor Bob Phelps appealed for calm. 
Someone chucked a rock through his window.
Nomi Vaughan
At the height of the immigration debate, then-Mayor Bob Phelps appealed for calm. Someone chucked a rock through his window.
Restaurateur Elizabeth Villafranca, one of a string of Latino candidates unable to break Farmers Branch's Anglo voting bloc.
Naomi Vaughan
Restaurateur Elizabeth Villafranca, one of a string of Latino candidates unable to break Farmers Branch's Anglo voting bloc.

It identified the same "barrier" in the Four Corners area, once the city's dining and shopping hub. "In the Metroplex, retailers are responding to demographic change by increasingly marketing to growing ethnic populations, which in turn is giving rise to shopping centers devoted exclusively to ethnic populations, especially Hispanic, African American, and Asian populations. "

They were doing business, but not with the right people.

That night, after a closed session, the council unanimously approved the legal residency measure. A fine of $500 a day would be levied against any landlord who leased to an "unlawfully present" tenant. If the federal government refused to round them up, Farmers Branch would simply deny them shelter.


To understand the demographic shift in Farmers Branch is to comprehend the class and racial tensions shot through the immigration debate. Farmers Branch is the oldest settlement in Dallas County. The county's first cotton gin was built here. So, too, its first Baptist church and its first school. Farmers Branch was a land grant for "free and white" settlers. In 1946, the town incorporated, boasting some 800 inhabitants. By 1980, the population grew to more than 27,000. Roughly 8 percent of them were Hispanic. Five percent were foreign-born. Twenty years later, a quarter of the population was foreign-born, but not all of them hailed from Latin America. They were from the Pacific Rim, India and from all over Asia. But the most growth was among Latinos, who were 37 percent of Farmers Branch in 2000. By 2010, they had become the majority. City leaders despaired as home ownership rates fell and rental rates rose.

Historically speaking, a nearly direct antecedent for the council's actions can be found in 1870s San Francisco, according to an SMU anthropological study. Targeting the Chinese, the city banned carrying laundry tied to poles on the sidewalk. Another ordinance regulated the square footage apportioned to each adult, since many Chinese lived in cramped quarters.

Skeptical school board members have said the Farmers Branch council may have tried the latter by soliciting the names and addresses of children in the overwhelmingly Hispanic Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district. Some speculated that the council may have been attempting to determine whether the number of children per household violated a square-footage requirement.

Before long, the two rec-center televisions once set to Spanish-language channels were switched. A ban was placed on the opening of new cash-advance businesses. And when rumor spread that the Minyard grocery-store chain might open a Latino-centric Carnival grocer in Farmers Branch, council candidate Tim Scott organized a campaign to stop it. "I think it is a reasonable thing to wish for to have a grocery store that appeals to higher-end consumers," O'Hare told The Dallas Morning News. (At the time, Carnival had become Minyard's most profitable line of stores.)

Latino residents may be forgiven, then, for feeling singled out. Father Michael Forge of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church says his congregation lost some 500 parishioners in the years since the debate began. "There is kind of a mild fear, an insecurity, when coming into Farmers Branch," he says.

Manuel Aguirre, a Mary Immaculate parishioner, delivers liquor and wine for a local distributor. Aguirre emigrated from the Mexican state of Michoacán 30 years ago. He was 16 at the time, and he brought with him his new wife. They settled in this area, raised three children and never left. His son is a teacher at Vivian Field Elementary. Aguirre doesn't begrudge the town the right to craft its own rules, but believes they're counterproductive. "Right now, the sentiment of the Hispanic community is that this is against the Hispanic people. They feel like it's an attack to the whole community."

Hugo Ramirez, another parishioner, is an electrical engineer at Nokia Siemens in Irving. He emigrated from San Miguel, near Guadalajara, after graduating from the Universidad de Autónoma Guadalajara. "When I came and I'm asked where I go to church, I say Farmers Branch. And they say, 'Why do you go there? They hate Mexicans,'" he says. "That's the first time I know this. You see the people is afraid. They cannot live in peace, and they're good people, just working. ... It's a way of terrorism, in my opinion, in terms of scaring people."

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My Voice Nation Help
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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