Posted by: bridget | 12 January 2007

Texas Judge Blocks Illegal Immigrant Law

A federal district court judge in Texas has issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the implementation of a law which forbids landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.   Groups sued under the theory that it forces landlords to act as immigration officers and under a vagueness theory.

The pachyderm gives an elephant snort to both these legal theories and, therefore, to the judge’s ruling (a TRO requires a substantial likelihood of success on merits).  First of all, the theory that people will be required to carry birth certificates and passports is absurd, as is the theory that landlords are turned into immigration officers.   As previously blogged, the prohibition against renting to illegal immigrants falls well within current laws.   Anyone seeking to open a banking account, apply for credit, or apply for a job must show proof of citizenship.  That requiremenet hardly turns the nice lady at the local Credit Union into an immigration officer – it just prohibits her from giving a bank account to someone who can’t show proper identification.

One other theory is that it is exclusively the province of the federal government to regulate immigration.  While it is the province of Congress to determine naturalisation, it is well within the powers of states and municipalities to enforce their own laws.  An illegal immigrant, driving without a license and insurance, would not be immune from local prosecution simply because of Art. I, Sec. 9, Cl. 4.   Furthermore, the Constitution does not explicitly prevent states from enforcing immigration laws.  Art. I, Sec. 9 and 10 are silent on the issue; Art. I, Sec. 9, Cl. 5 permits Congress to coin money, and the next clause gives Congress the right to provide punishment for counterfieters.  As the naturalisation clause does not have a corresponding right, there is nothing to prevent states from making laws respecting illegal immigrants.

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