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Fremont, NE Bans Renting to Illegal Immigrants

Last night, June 21, voters in the town of Fremont, Nebraska voted to approve a city ordinance banning the rental of property to illegal immigrants. Will this type of law make Nebraska the new Arizona? State and national reactions in the next few weeks will tell. One thing is already certain, the ACLU has promised to mount a legal challenge to the ordinance.

The Fremont law, according to the AP, will require potential renters to apply for a license from the city. City officials will then be required to refuse to issue a license to any applicants found to be in the country illegally. Employers will also be required to verify an employee's immigration status via the federal E-Verify database.

The city's Hispanic community has grown quickly in the last twenty years as jobs at the local Fremont Beef and Hormel meatpacking plants have become available. Specifically, according to census expert David Drozd at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the Hispanic population in Fremont, including both legal and illegal residents, rose from about 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000. An estimated 2,060 Hispanics lived in the city last year.

Community attitudes about the law vary. Some who voted for it think it will make a dent in the growing national problem of illegal immigration. Supporter Trevor McClurg told the AP, "I don't think it's right to be able to rent to them or hire them," McClurg said. "They shouldn't be here in the first place. Law supporter Linda Nafziger had a more pragmatic take on the law's effect. "They'll just move somewhere else and be somebody else's problem," she said.

The city of Fremont is by no means alone in its attempt to control, by direct or indirect means, what officials see as the effects illegal immigration may have on their cities. As the AP notes, the cities of Hazelton, Pa. and Farmers Branch, Tx. have both passed ordinances prohibiting landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. Both laws were struck down by the federal courts and both are on appeal. As noted in a previous post on this blog, cities in Southern California have enacted ordinances prohibiting day laborers from soliciting work. Opponents say it is an attempt to hit at illegal immigration and at the free speech rights of the workers.

As for Fremont, the law will shortly face its first challenge. "Not only do local ordinances such as this violate federal law, they are also completely out of step with American values of fairness and equality," said Laurel Marsh, executive director of ACLU Nebraska.

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