Friday, September 21, 2012

Kobach defends Texas city in immigration suit

A Dallas suburb asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to uphold an ordinance that would ban illegal immigrants from renting homes in the town.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national advocate for tougher illegal immigration laws who is also representing Farmers Branch, said that one of the provisions of an Arizona law upheld by the Supreme Court ruling closely mirrors a key portion of the Texas town’s ordinance.

“The problem with the plaintiffs’ argument is that they cannot identify a single federal statute that the Farmers Branch ordinance conflicts with,” he said.

The full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to rehear the case after a three-judge panel from the court ruled in March that Farmers Branch’s ordinance is unconstitutional and impermissibly interferes with the federal immigration system.

The court’s 15 judges didn’t indicate when they would rule after hearing arguments Wednesday from attorneys for the town and a group of landlords and tenants who sued to block the ordinance’s enforcement.

Arguments largely focused on how the case is affected by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June on Arizona’s tough immigration law. That ruling rejected major parts of the law, but upheld the so-called “show me your papers” requirement, which gives law enforcement authority to check a person’s legal status if officers have reasonable suspicion he or she is in the U.S. illegally.

The ordinance, which replaced an earlier 2006 version, would require all renters to obtain a $5 city license and fill out an application that asks about their legal status. Then, the city’s building inspector would have to check whether any immigrant applying for a license was in the United States legally. Illegal immigrants would be denied a permit, and landlords who knowingly allow illegal immigrants to stay as tenants could be fined or have their renters’ license barred.

Kobach said the ordinance explicitly bars the town from making its own determination about whether someone is “lawfully present” in the U.S.  “It must always be done by the federal government,” he said.

“It’s a yes or no from the federal government, correct?” asked Judge Jennifer Elrod, who heard the case last year but issued a dissenting opinion.  “Correct,” Kobach responded.

But plaintiffs’ attorney Nina Perales said the information federal officials provide the building inspector is “very complex and varied” and doesn’t explicitly state whether an applicant is “lawfully present” in the country.

“That’s something that the building inspector is going to have to figure out for himself,” Perales said.

Fellow plaintiffs’ attorney Dunham Biles added: “No one other than the federal government has the authority to classify aliens.”

Perales said the city’s ordinance goes far beyond the Arizona law, forcibly removing illegal immigrants from rental housing instead of merely detaining them and letting the federal government decide whether to remove them from the country.

“This is a complete divergence from the federal system,” she said.

A federal district judge ruled against the city in 2010 before the three-judge panel at the 5th Circuit upheld it earlier this year.

The full 5th Circuit is generally considered to be one of the nation’s most conservative federal courts. Its decision to hear the Farmers Branch case is rare — fewer than 5 percent of petitions for a full court hearing are granted — though the court rehearing a case doesn’t necessarily mean judges intend to reverse an earlier decision.


'Hateful' Islam critic Geert Wilders wants visa to speak in Australia

If the views of Mr Wilders are "hateful and divisive", what do we call the views of the violent Muslim demonstrators in Sydney recently?  If Mr Wilders is not fit to be here, what of the demonstrators?

A DUTCH MP who is a outspoken critic of Islam is seeking a visa to visit Australia for a speaking tour next month.

Geert Wilders, who has compared the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf, has been invited by the Q Society to give speeches in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Federal Government has not yet made a decision but Multicultural Affairs Minister Kate Lundy described Mr Wilders as "an extreme-right politician promulgating views that are out of step with mainstream Australia".

Mr Wilders, who calls Islam "a retarded culture" is on an international immigration movement red-alert list. The Immigration Department is still considering the case and has not yet presented it to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, who is Tony Abbott's parliamentary secretary, has previously supported a bid by Mr Wilders to visit on the grounds of free speech. He said he was not involved in organising any proposed visit but asked on what grounds should a democratically elected member of a foreign parliament be denied a visa.

Victorian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale criticised Mr Wilders. "His hateful and divisive views are not welcome in Australia, but to deny him a visa risks giving him more oxygen and publicity," he said.

Mr Wilders was refused a visa to enter the UK, but appealed and won.

Q Society vice president of community relations Andrew Horwood said his organisation was not political or religious and sought to educate people about Islam and uphold Australian values. Critics call it anti-Muslim.

Mr Horwood said after last weekend's Islamic riot in Sydney it was timely for Mr Wilders to "offer advice about Islam and we need to listen and take note".

He said Mr Wilders had been waiting three weeks for a visa and asked why the government was able to "process visas for Islamic hot heads in a hurry, but leave MPs from friendly European nations hang out to dry".

He sent a letter to supporters calling on them to urge Mr Bowen to approve the visa.

Mr Bowen defended granting a visa to British Muslim leader Taji Mustafa saying he was not on any alert list, not a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation and had no criminal convictions. He said the Howard government had not banned his organisation Hizb ut Tahrir despite the Opposition now calling him a hate preacher.


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