Friday, July 26, 2013

TX: Federal appeals court overturns housing ID ordinance

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that landlords in a Texas suburb may not vet incoming tenants according to their immigration status, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“All of Texas benefits from the contributions of immigrants who live and work in our state,” ACLU of Texas legal and policy director Rebecca L. Robertson said in a statement. “We fervently hope that this case marks the end of the anti-immigrant laws that target our friends, our neighbors, and our family members for harsh treatment.”

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that an ordinance adopted in Farmers Branch in 2008 requiring renters to show legal residence in the country before becoming tenants conflicted with federal immigration law.

“The ordinance not only criminalizes occupancy of a rented apartment or single-family residence, but puts local officials in the impermissible position of arresting and detaining persons based on their immigration status without federal direction and supervision,” Judge Stephen A. Higginson wrote in the majority opinion (PDF).

The Dallas Morning News reported that Farmers Branch officials are unsure whether to continue their fight to uphold the measure. The Dallas County suburb has spent $6 million over the past seven years on legal fees connected to the ordinance.

“Obviously, I am disappointed,” City Council member Ben Robinson told the Morning News. “I didn’t read it that we were stepping on the shoes of the federal government. Anybody who rented an apartment had to make some statement about their nationality.”


Border emergency needs military  -- says Australian conservative leader

PEOPLE smuggling is a national emergency that needs a senior military officer to control the response, the coalition says.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has announced that a coalition government will ask the defence force chief to appoint a three-star commander to lead a joint agency taskforce to deal with people smugglers and border protection.

Operation Sovereign Borders, as it would be known, would be established within 100 days of the coalition taking government and would involve all 12 agencies with direct involvement in border security.

The military commander in charge would report directly to the immigration minister.

Within its first 100 days a coalition government would also finalise and issue the protocols for Operation Relex II, to turn back asylum seeker boats when safe.

"This is one of the most serious external situations that we have faced in many a long year," Mr Abbott said on launching the policy in Brisbane on Thursday.

"It must be tackled with decisiveness, with urgency, with the appropriate level of seriousness.

"That's why we need to have a senior military officer in operational control of this very important national emergency."

Mr Abbott also pledged to quickly increase capacity at offshore processing centres.

He says the coalition will also lease and deploy additional vessels so that border protection patrol vessels can be relieved of passenger transfers.

Outspoken retired Major General Jim Molan joined Mr Abbott for the announcement, endorsing the policy and saying it set the stage for success.

He said he'd been brought on board to advise the opposition on how to conduct such operations.

"What I offer the coalition is a check on feasibility," he told reporters at the policy launch.

"The result is the coalition, if elected, will be able to give more refined direction to the agencies and the agencies' plans, when they come back for government approval, can be better understood.

"That thoroughness is far, far better than policy on the run."

He noted Operation Sovereign Borders would be a military-led operation rather than a military operation.

"It's certainly not an unusual circumstance for the military to be used in this way," he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already dismissed Mr Abbott's new policy as another three word slogan: "Operation Sovereign something-or-other."

Mr Abbott pointed out that since Labor abolished the Howard government's border protection policies, 48,000 people have arrived on 800 boats and more than 1000 people have perished at sea.

Mr Abbott said that as a courtesy he had given Chief of Defence David Hurley and the Indonesian ambassador a heads-up about the announcement on Thursday morning.

He rejected suggestions he should have consulted with General Hurley while developing the policy.

"I'm very conscious of the proprieties here," he told reporters in Brisbane.

"The last thing I would want to do is get serving officers directly involved in advising the opposition."

General Hurley issued a statement saying that "contrary to media reporting" he did not advise Mr Abbott on the policy.

Mr Abbott said the coalition had informally consulted with serving officers as well as recently retired officers.

Asked about Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's claim that the opposition had misrepresented his comments from a private briefing about control of foreign aid, Mr Abbott said he had a "good relationship" with Mr O'Neill.

Earlier this week the opposition claimed Mr O'Neill had said he was now in control of Australia's foreign aid money for PNG.

"What we've said ... is based on Mr O'Neill's public statements," Mr Abbott said.

"Yes we had a private meeting with Prime Minister O'Neill and what he said in private was consistent with what he said in public."


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