[JURIST] The Nebraska Supreme Court [official website] on Friday declined to rule [opinion, PDF] on a local ordinance banning the hiring, harboring or renting of property to illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive]. The US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website] had asked the court to decide whether Fremont Ordinance 5156 [text], which mandates that renters obtain a permit from the city in order to acquire housing and which prohibits individuals from renting or leasing housing to individuals they know or should know are in the US illegally, violates state law. The court declined to act, saying that there is no need to decide this question because:
the U.S. Supreme Court has held that federal courts are not required to obtain a state court’s construction of a state statute or ordinance before deciding a federal constitutional challenge to the law and should not certify such question unless the law is fairly susceptible to a narrowing construction. Also, the Court has held that it is “manifestly inappropriate to certify a question in a case where … there is no uncertain question of state law whose resolution might affect the pending federal claim.”
The city of Fremont has suspended enactment of the ordinance until the district court decides the issue, and the city has raised its property taxes [press release] to fund the court fight.
In September, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court’s ruling that a similar law passed by the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, was preempted by federal law [JURIST report]. Immigration issues have come to the fore in the US since the passage of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on the law’s constitutionality. The law was passed because of concerns that federal officials were not taking the issue seriously, but the US Department of Homeland Security announced recently that the US deported a record number of illegal immigrants [JURIST report] in 2010.