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Fifth Circuit Grants Farmers Branch En Banc Rehearing

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about a Texas town's immigration policy in en banc rehearing on Wednesday.

Farmers Branch adopted Ordinance 2952 in January 2008, requiring housing renters to apply for a residential occupancy license from the city's Building Inspector. Under the ordinance, a non-citizen prospective occupant must provide an identification number establishing his or her lawful presence in the U.S. in order to get an occupancy license.

In March, a three-judge panel ruled that the sole purpose of the ordinance was to exclude undocumented aliens from the city, which is an impermissible regulation of immigration. In April, Farmer's Branch asked the Fifth Circuit to review that decision. The appellate court granted the request in July.

Arguments on Wednesday steered toward the similarities and differences between the Farmers Branch ordinance and Arizona's S.B. 1070 immigration law, The Associated Press reports. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is representing Farmers Branch, said that that Farmers Branch ordinance is similar to Arizona's "show me your papers" requirement. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to strike the Arizona papers provision in its Arizona v. U.S. ruling in June.

Federal preemption seemed to be a sticking point with the court. Judge Jennifer Elrod, the lone dissenter on the panel that previously heard the case, noted that the ordinance requires the town to verify an occupancy license applicant's immigration status with federal authorities, rather than making its own determination regarding legal status.

What do you think? Does the federal role in immigration verification sufficiently remove Farmers Branch from the preemption path?

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