FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – Travelers drive through Farmers Branch without realizing it, because the tiny town of 27,508 is crammed into bustling North Dallas. Thanks to its aggressively racist city council and protests by its 37 percent Latino population, though, much of the world is aware of what is transpiring there.
City Hall was packed with newspersons and a mostly-Anglo crowd on the evening of January 8 when the Council decided to defy lawsuits and implement their ordinance to drive undocumented workers out of town. The ordinance makes English the “official language” of the town and provides for prosecution of anyone who rents a home to an undocumented worker. The original proposal by Councilman Tim O’Hare would have penalized employers, but it was not included in the final ordinance. Protesters say that the ordinance is racist, unconstitutional, and completely unenforceable.
So far, three lawsuits have been filed. One Farmers Branch homeowner filed suit to claim that the City Council had violated the state’s “Open Meetings” law when they planned their ordinance. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund filed another one on constitutional grounds. Local merchants joined together in a third suit for damages already being incurred due to a severe drop in their revenues. Similar situations are developing in Hazelton, Mass., Escondido, California, and other towns affected by the general climate of encouraging racism by reactionaries in politics.
The Farmers Branch City Council faces an election on May 12. A special ballot issue, forced on them by a major petitioning campaign, will ask voters to terminate the new ordinance. In light of the lawsuits and the coming election, the City “fathers” might have postponed implementation of their controversial ordinance until after the people have spoken. Unanimously, and to the applause and cheers of their audience, they decided to implement it anyway. It takes effect January 12. The battle lines are drawn until the city election unless courts intervene.
Out in the foyer, where the overflow crowd watched the proceedings on closed circuit TV, one of the observers commented, “They already had their minds made up. If Jesus Christ walked in there and opposed that ordinance, they would boo him!”