Angry protests have erupted in the Dallas, Texas, suburb of Farmers
Branch after the local city council on Monday voted to make English the
municipality's official language and impose fines on landlords who rent to
The measures passed by the Farmers Branch city council are not
specifically targeted at any ethnic group, but Hispanics have been leading
most of the protests. Most of the immigrants in this area are from Latin
America, with Mexico being the main country of origin. The six city
council members who voted for the ordinances say they wanted to shield the
community from the negative effects of illegal immigration, but Carlos
Quintanilla, a local organizer for the League of United Latin American
Citizens, known as LULAC, disagrees. "What they have done is build a
shield of hate, a shield of division," he said.
The city council action drew crowds of supporters as well as opponents,
who engaged in verbal clashes.
Local taxi driver Gerald Colgrave, who supports the council action,
says he has nothing against people of any ethnic group as long as they do
not violate U.S. immigration laws. "I have no objection to them being
here, I just want them to follow the law. You cannot have the American
dream if you do not follow the law," he said.
The measure to require landlords to check the immigration status of
people seeking to rent an apartment or house and to fine those who fail to
comply is similar to one passed by the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania,
earlier this year. A federal judge has blocked enforcement of that law
while considering lawsuits that challenge it.
Similar laws have been proposed in other parts of the United States,
but implemented in only a few. The action by the council in Farmers Branch
represents the first instance in which a community in Texas has approved
Farmers Branch is a town of about 28,000 people, about one third of
them Hispanic. The town's mayor, Bob Phelps, says he is troubled by the
measures because he thinks the controversy will create an image of an
intolerant community and scare away businesses looking to locate there.
Texas, which has long-standing relations with Mexico and Mexican
Americans that go back to the time when it was part of Mexico, has been
generally more tolerant of immigrants than some other border states. But
the high cost of health care and social services for illegal immigrants is
causing many communities to be less welcoming.
This week the state legislature began considering a bill that would
impose an eight percent fee on all international money transfers. Mexican
immigrants in the United States send back more than $20 billion to
families at home every year.
Supporters of the bill, which would also deny many entitlements and
jobs to illegal immigrants, say money raised from the fees could be used
to offset the costs local hospitals incur when treating illegal immigrants
in emergency rooms. Another proposal before the legislature would
authorize the state to sue the federal government to recover such costs
because controlling the border is a federal responsibility.