Nebraska city voters pass ban on hiring, renting to illegal immigrants

[JURIST] The voters of Fremont, Nebraska [official website] on Monday passed an ordinance [No 5165 text, PDF] banning the hiring, harboring or renting property to illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive]. The voters of the eastern Nebraska community of 25,000 approved the ordinance with 57 percent in favor. It requires all employers in the city to register for the E-Verify program [DHS website] and makes it a crime to rent to illegal immigrants. The ordinance states that any lease entered into by an illegal immigrant will be considered void. It also requires every person seeking to rent residential property to obtain an occupancy permit from the city, which will require the applicant to sign a declaration affirming his or her US citizenship or otherwise provide a visa or employment authorization number. In explaining the need for the law, the preamble to the ordinance states:

The presence of illegal aliens places a fiscal burden on the City, increasing the demand for, and cost of, public benefits and services[.] Crimes committed by illegal aliens in the City harm the health, safety and welfare of U.S. citizens and aliens lawfully present in the United States[.] The employment of unauthorized aliens in the City displaces authorized United States workers and adversely affects their wages[.]
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska [advocacy website] has promised to challenge the ordinance in court [press release], describing the law as "un-American and unconstitutional" and arguing that the ordinance will "cause discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign born, including U.S. citizens." The ordinance comes in response to a wave of immigration to the region due to the availability of jobs in the meatpacking industry. The Nebraska Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that the vote could occur, denying the city's request for declaratory relief on the basis that the ordinance would be preempted by federal law. A similar initiative was narrowly voted down [BBC report] by the Fremont City Council [official website] in 2008.

In March, the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas [official website] issued a permanent injunction [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] against a Texas city ordinance [No. 2952 text] containing a nearly identical occupancy permit scheme. The court ruled that the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch cannot enforce the permit scheme, finding it to be preempted by federal law under the Supremacy Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the US Constitution. State and local governments nationwide have been passing strict laws targeting illegal immigration in recent months. Earlier this month, the US Conference of Mayors [official website] passed two resolutions [JURIST report] opposing Arizona's recently passed immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] and supporting federal immigration reform. The controversial Arizona bill, which was signed into law [JURIST report] in April by Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website], will go into effect on July 29. Proponents of the law argue that it will discourage illegal immigration, while opponents contend it will lead to discriminatory police practices based on race. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against implementation of the law, joining two others filed in April [JURIST reports] questioning the constitutionality of the law.

 

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