FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (AP) _ Landlords in this Dallas suburb were asked to determine the immigration status of tenants, even though an ordinance calling for such checks was halted by a federal judge.
Three apartment complexes already suing Farmers Branch over a rule requiring verification of a tenants' citizenship or immigration status have asked a federal court to sanction the city. They are asking for fines and costs of the court filings.
"They have violated a standing order of a court," said attorney Bill Brewer, who represents the apartment complexes.
An attorney for Farmers Branch said Tuesday the situation was a mistake the city intends to correct.
The landlords say Farmers Branch sent some apartment complexes that hadn't yet renewed their rental licenses a form that asked complexes to abide by city ordinances. It mentioned a section on citizenship and immigration.
When landlords asked for a copy of the section, they were given a copy of the city's original ordinance banning apartment rentals to illegal immigrants, according to court filings from last week.
Council members unanimously approved that ordinance in 2006, but the rule was revised months later to include some exemptions. Residents endorsed the revamped ordinance 2-to-1 last year in the nation's first public vote on a local government measure meant to combat illegal immigration.
But then a federal judge blocked Farmers Branch from enforcing the rule after finding that city officials tried to regulate immigration differently from the federal government. The case remains in court.
"After a year and a half of this ordinance being bounced up and down, for someone to send something like that and not notice," said Gerry Henigsman, executive vice president of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas.
Farmers Branch officials someone on the city staff accidentally printed a form drafted after the first ordinance was approved. Nine complexes received the form, said attorney Michael Jung, who represents the city.
"First of all, we have made sure that if in the future somebody asks for an apartment license application, that they get the correct form," Jung said. "We intend to send notices to the people that were sent the incorrect form, telling them … they are not require at this time to abide by the immigration ordinance."
Since the judge's order barring enforcement, Farmers Branch has approved another, more sweeping ordinance. The new rule passed this year bans apartment and home rentals to people who can't prove their legal status when applying for a city tenants license.
Information from The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.