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Court of Appeals rules in favor of immigrants in housing case

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Residents of Washington may be interested in a decision rendered this week by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because the case could potentially make its way to the Supreme Court. The decision concerns an immigration law passed by one city within the Circuit, which comprises three states in the south-central portion of the country.

That city's law, by the mayor's own admission, was intended to keep illegal immigrants out of the city. It subjected all non-U.S. citizens seeking to rent an apartment to the scrutiny of the city building inspector, who could inquire about their immigration documents. If the inspector discovered that anyone was in the country illegally, that person could not rent an apartment within the city. The law also provided punishment to those who rented to illegal immigrants.

Renters initially challenged the law in U.S. District Court, which ruled against the city. The city appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court's ruling. In its opinion, the appellate court noted that the city's only aim was to exclude illegal immigrants using the pretext of a housing inspection. The court also stated that the city's law conflicted with the principle that Washington has "exclusive authority over the regulation of immigration and the conditions of residence in this country."

The city is considering appealing the case to the Supreme Court. A lawyer for the renters believed that the 5th Circuit's decision was important because it sent a message to other cities and states that might be contemplating similar legislation.

Immigrants can face a number of challenges, including adjusting to cultural norms and learning a new language. Regrettably, they can also face discriminatory laws. But the legal system can provide redress in some cases.

Source: The Washington Post, "Appeals court upholds ban on Texas town's law barring illegal immigrants from rental housing," Mar. 21, 2012.

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