In the public library on a warm May evening, Teresa Puga takes a class of four Latina women and one man through English pronouns and verbs.

"We are friends. What is the to-be verb?"

"We are the world," croons Julio Herrera, the class clown. Herrera, a stocky man with mechanic's hands and ceaselessly smiling eyes, hopes to improve his lot by learning English in these free classes. He came to Texas from El Salvador eight years ago under temporary protected status granted because of the destruction wrought on his country by earthquakes in 2001. He is now a maintenance man at a local apartment complex. Learning English, he hopes, will enable him to better understand his duties at work. But he has another, more pressing motive: He wants to be able to converse with his daughters, who were born here and speak only English.

One of them drapes her arms around his neck as she waits for him to finish. The ordinance, he says, has brought more uncertainty into a life already wracked with it. "His daughters have come home from school crying because their best friends have moved from the city," says Rolando Puga, a volunteer teacher and Teresa's brother, who interpreted for Herrera. "They cannot live in this city."

What's more, Herrera's life has for eight years been measured in 18-month increments. Every year and a half, he waits to see if the State Department will renew the protected status of Salvadorean refugees. He doesn't know what he will do if it is revoked. His daughters are Americans. But because the ordinance's collateral damage would afflict citizen children and their undocumented parents alike, should it survive in court then Farmers Branch could no longer be their home.


Within weeks of the passage of the renter's ordinance, the city was hit with lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Bickel and Brewer Storefront, the pro-bono arm of Dallas' Bickel & Brewer law firm, filed suit on behalf of the owners of three apartment complexes. The firm also sued the city on behalf of Guillermo Ramos, a real-estate attorney who claimed the council's back-room deliberations violated state open-meetings law.

Days later, the city secretary certified the success of a recall petition on the ordinance with some 1,700 signatures. A referendum would be held the following May. Then, on January 11, the day before the ordinance was to go into effect, the state judge in Ramos' open-meetings case blocked the city from enforcing it.

A week later, the council directed the city attorney to draft a new ordinance. Only this time, the council enlisted the brain behind the ordinances challenging the federal government's primacy in immigration. "I got a phone call," says Kris Kobach, former counsel to U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft under President George W. Bush. "And I returned it and said, 'Your ordinance needs to be changed. It's not gonna stand up.'"

On January 22, 2007, the council unanimously adopted a revised ordinance that would still require apartment complexes to verify the lawful immigration status of their tenants, but would use a framework the city claimed was similar to the kind used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nationally syndicated conservative radio personality Mike Gallagher presented the City Council with a $10,075 check for its legal defense fund, raised by selling shirts that read, "This is America. Please speak English." David Koch, the real-estate attorney and intermediary between IRLI and the council (and who was also preparing to make a run at a council seat), proffered a check for $2,100 on behalf of farmersbranchlegaldefensefund.com.

On the final day of voting, May 12, City Hall saw the largest turnout in Farmers Branch history. Voters approved the new ordinance by a two-to-one margin. Attorneys for the ACLU, MALDEF and Bickel & Brewer quickly filed for another temporary restraining order. A federal judge granted it. The following month, the plaintiffs got a preliminary injunction pending the outcome of a trial.

Determined to craft an ordinance that would survive a legal challenge, the city adopted its third and final ordinance in January 2008 with the help of Kobach. It was due to take effect 15 days after whatever ruling came from the federal court. Two months later, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay issued a permanent injunction, deeming the second immigration ordinance an unconstitutional encroachment on a federal prerogative. The City Council vowed its third ordinance would soon take effect. Again, Bickel & Brewer sued the city on behalf of apartment complex owners and succeeded in securing yet another temporary restraining order. By 2009, Farmers Branch was on the hook for a nearly half-million dollar mediated settlement to apartment owners and tenants. It was estimated it had incurred some $2 million in legal fees related to defending the ordinances. In March 2010, another federal judge permanently blocked the city from enforcing its third ordinance. The council voted unanimously to appeal. By that time, the toll was more than $3 million.

The city's doggedness gained it nationwide media attention. By last December, the feds took notice. In an amicus brief to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for the Justice Department argued that the city's ordinance rested upon a fundamental misunderstanding of immigration law. The federal program the city intended to use to verify the immigration status of a prospective tenant could tell them whether a non-citizen was subject to removal proceedings, but would not reveal the outcome.

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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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