updated 8/26/2006 10:36:54 PM ET 2006-08-27T02:36:54

Clutching American flags and signs that read “America was formed by immigrants,” more than 300 protesters on Saturday denounced a city proposal that would prohibit landlords from leasing to illegal immigrants.

About two dozen counter-protesters staged a demonstration nearby.

The proposal by City Councilman Tim O’Hare would also make it tougher for illegal immigrants to work in the Dallas suburb, penalize businesses that employ undocumented workers and make English the city’s official language.

Protesters branded the proposal a racist initiative that would single out Hispanics, who make up about 37 percent of the city’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2000.

“If we’re of a certain color, they’re going to point their finger at us,” said Jose Gomez, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen.

Organizers of the rally emphasized that immigrants, regardless of status, pay taxes when they shop, rent or buy a home in Farmers Branch.

Families with children and college students rallied in temperatures topping 100 degrees.

O’Hare, who was not seen at the rally, and a city spokesman did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press.

Counter-protesters carried signs reading “I place all persons in the USA illegally under citizen’s arrest” and “Como se Dice illegal en Espanol?”, which translates to “How do you say illegal in Spanish?”

Supporters of the proposal said the measure would address problems with health care, education and crime in the city.

“They’re taking our jobs, our homes,” said Debbie Rawlins, 48. “There’s unemployment partly because of the Hispanics. The lady that took my job is Hispanic and she’s bilingual.”

City Council members heard from constituents earlier this week on whether Farmers Branch should approve the measures, but no decision was made.

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