Voters in Fremont, Nebraska, passed an ordinance yesterday that will ban employers and landlords from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants. The ordinance, which was supported by approximately 57 percent of Fremont's voters, has propelled Nebraska to the forefront of the national debate on illegal immigration, alongside Arizona. The ACLU plans to challenge the ordinance in court. Director of the ACLU Nebraska, Laurel Marsh, has called the law discriminatory and un-American, according to CBS.
The measure requires all potential renters to apply for city licenses, which verify that they are in the country legally. Officials must withhold these licenses if they find that the would-be renters are illegal immigrants. Similarly, employers must confirm that potential employees are legal residents through a federal database, reported the Associated Press.
In recent years, the Hispanic population of Fremont has surged. Approximately 2,000 of Fremont's population of 25,000 are both legal and illegal Hispanic residents, reported CBS News. This surge in population has helped fuel support for the measure, as some claim illegal immigrants are draining community resources. However, opponents of the measure contend that there is not an illegal immigration problem in Fremont and cite the town's low unemployment as proof.
Related laws have passed in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Farmers Branch, Texas, although both laws were overturned by higher courts. The towns are currently working to appeal the decisions, a process which has cost each town millions of dollars, according to an Immigration Ordinance Fact Sheet.
The Fremont measure comes after passage of Arizona's strict immigration law in April. According to the New York Times, Arizona's immigration law gives police the power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally if they are not carrying immigration documents. A coalition of civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against the law on May 17.
Media Resources: Associated Press 6/22/10; CNN 6/22/10; CBS News 6/21/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/17/10; New York Times 4/23/10; Immigration Ordinance Fact Sheet 6/2/10