Fremont City Illegal Immigration Ordinance (June 2010)
This measure was initiated in 2008 and approved a city ordinance that would ban the hiring of or renting to illegal immigrants that reside in the county.
This measure was approved
Though this measure has been approved, lawsuits have already begun to reverse the vote, stating that the measure is unconstitutional, the ACLU is at the head of the proposed lawsuit. The voter turnout for the election was estimated at 45 percent, of the 25,000 residents who are eligible to vote in the city. Other anti-illegal immigration groups see this as a victory and hope there will be ripple effects in their towns, further proof that residents all over are frustrated with immigration laws and see this as their only means to confront the issue. The city council president, although agreeing that the people had the right to vote on the issue, noted that legal costs will likely be very high for the city and cost residents more in the long run.
State Senator Brad Ashford, the chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said the courts are far more likely to look favorably on the “employment piece of the Fremont ordinance than the renter piece.” Ashford also downplayed allegations by some of Fremont’s critics who contend the vote was a racist attack against Hispanics. According to Ashford he “can’t look into the hearts of everybody,” but he is convinced the majority of Nebraskans want the federal government to protect the borders and enforce the immigration laws already on the books.
The city council may now suspend the implementation of this ordinance in order to wait for the results of the legal battle. This is a common practice if there are legal issues surrounding a measure, suspending implementation allows for avoidance of more legal issues if the ordinance does not stand up in court. But those who petitioned for the issue are stating that the council should not suspend the implementation and should fight the legal battles which seek to over rule the results. Council officials stressed that they suspension was just due to saving the city money in further legal battles rather than in a show of not supporting the results. Though the cost savings of not implementing the measure are unclear, the city was assured it was more than the $1 million in costs if it were implemented before the judge issued a decision.
This measure was first enacted in 2008, but was voted down by the city council because they believed it to be unconstitutional. But a citizen-led petition effort that would ban the "harboring of and hiring of illegal immigrants" was conducted and the issue was set to be voted on by residents. 4,100 petition signatures were collected to qualify the measure for the ballot and Dodge County Clerk Fred Mytty said that at least 3,343 of them were valid, versus a requirement of 20 percent of Fremont's registered voters, or 3,100 valid signatures.
But the city still believed it to be unconstitutional so they took the issue to court, where it reached as far as the supreme court before a final decision was made on the issue, allowing it to go ahead for a city wide vote. The case did not focus on the constitutionality of the measure, but rather on the fact of if a judge can intervene in a contested election. Opponents stated that the ordinance would encourage discrimination but proponents argued that the goal was just to ensure fair services to all residence and jobs to those that need them in the city.
People on both sides of the issue have seen recent rises in violent acts towards other members of the community. Both those for and against the issue have raised concerns about violent acts towards themselves, legal immigrants seeing the most outright acts of hatred towards them; though the hispanic population of the city is still less than 10 percent. Many outsiders just see the growing anxiety about crime increases and larger Hispanic population as the product of a growing Midwest city. The lawsuits that could potentially errupt if this is approved would cost the city millions in litigation.
The American Civil Liberties Union stated that if the law is passed it plans to sue the city noting that laws like this leave to profiling and deeper segregation in communities. Funding to fight this measure is far greater than that in favor. Local business owners are the main backers of the No vote in the city, with local cities and towns giving $25,000 to fund the campaign. The money was mainly used for advertising campaigners to educate voters about the consequences of approving this measure. Full reporting of campaign contributions is not required under law because the campaigns were formed after the threshold.
Proponents of the measure brought this to a vote because of the large increase of Hispanic workers into the city and saw similar issues being raised in Arizona. They also argue that the law is needed to protect local resident's jobs, education of young people and healthcare. Proponents have been the fact that they are not against immigration, just those that are illegal in the country, those that are breaking the law. They feel confident, looking towards similar issues brought up in other local elections, as a confirmation of their goals.
The ordinance would require:
- Everyone renting housing in Fremont would have to pay $5 for an "occupancy" license, which would be issued after local police confirm a would-be renter’s immigration status.
- Landlords who rent to illegal immigrants could be fined $100.
- Any business that receives a license, permit or loan from the city must use the federal E-verify system to ascertain a potential employee’s residency status.
- The new York Times, "Nebraska Town Votes to Banish Illegal Immigrants," June 21, 2010
- News With Views, "Fremont Nebraska Votes “No” To Illegal Immigrants," June 23, 2010
- Associated Press, "Neb. town votes to restrict illegal immigration," June 22, 2010
- Richmond Times, "Hispanics: Neb. effort shows need for federal law," June 22, 2010
- Omaha World Herald, "Fremont ballot initiative," June 20, 2010 (dead link)
- Illegal immigration may proceed to a vote in Fremont, Nebraska
- Nebraska Watchdog, "Good Turnout Likely for Immigration Vote," May 19, 2010
- Omaha World Herald, "Fremont OKs immigrant ordinance," June 22, 2010
- "Fremont’s Illegal Immigration Fight: Half Right?" Nebraska Watchdog, June 30, 2010
- Lincoln Journal Star, "Fremont likely to suspend immigration ordinance," July 27, 2010
- The Associated Press, "Neb. town may halt immigration law to save money," July 27, 2010
- Fremont Tribune, "Judge hears arguments in immigration case," April 16, 2009
- Omaha World Herald, "Signatures verified; Fremont may get to vote on illegal immigrant plan," May 25, 2009 (dead link)
- Journal Star, "Fremont immigration case focuses on judge's role in elections," January 7, 2010
- The New York Times, "City in Nebraska Torn as Immigration Vote Nears," June 17, 2010
- BBC world News, "Nebraska city holds controversial immigration vote," June 21, 2010
- Omaha World Herald, "Fremont ordinance backers outspent," June 18, 2010
- Lincoln Journal Star, "Monday's vote has implications beyond Fremont," June 19, 2010
- Nebraska State Paper, "Judge Promises Earliest Possible Decision On Fremont Immigration Ordinance," April 17, 2009 (dead link)