- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (AP) — This Dallas suburb could become the first city in Texas to adopt a sweeping ordinance intended to keep out illegal aliens.

More than 50 municipalities nationwide have considered, passed or rejected laws banning landlords from leasing to illegal aliens, penalizing businesses that employ undocumented workers and making English the local official language. But until now, that trend hasn’t reached Texas.

“This is the first town in Texas that had the guts to do what’s right,” Susie Hart, who grew up in Farmers Branch, said during a recent demonstration outside City Hall. “The education system is tanking, health care has gone through the roof, everybody is bilingual.”

The measure is expected to be submitted to the council today, but there was no indication when it might be put to a vote.

Since 1970, Farmers Branch has changed from a small, predominantly white bedroom community with a declining population to a city of almost 28,000 people, about 37 percent of them Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau.

The local debate over illegal immigration began in August. Council members adopted a resolution criticizing the federal government for not aggressively addressing the issue.

City attorneys have been given drafts of an ordinance that would make English the city’s official language and proposals to fine companies and landlords who do business with illegal aliens.

The Farmers Branch proposal follows a vote this year in Hazleton, Pa., to fine landlords who rent to illegal aliens, deny business permits to companies that employ them and require tenants to register and pay for a rental permit. A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the Hazleton ordinance.

More than a dozen other Pennsylvania cities have taken up similar ordinances, as have several others in the South and a handful in California.

Many of the towns and counties have based their ordinances on a model provided by the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which favors limits on immigration and is affiliated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“They’ve all expressed a great deal of frustration with the failure of the federal government to respond” to illegal aliens, said Mike Hethmon, the institute’s general counsel.

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