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Fremont Votes to Ban Hiring, Renting to Undocumented Immigrants

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on February 18, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The town of Fremont, Nebraska voted to uphold an ordinance prohibiting employers and landlords from hiring or renting to undocumented immigrants.

The measure, approved in 2010, survived a constitutional challenge before the Eighth Circuit.

Despite staving off a slew of legal challenges and passing yet again by popular vote, the ban may not be free from legal scrutiny just yet.

Fremont Votes to Pass Ban

The housing measure was mired in controversy and remained in limbo because of legal challenges. But after the Eighth Circuit upheld most of the ordinance as constitutional and declined to rehear the case en banc, local officials decided to schedule another vote.

Almost 60 percent of voters supported upholding the ordinance in a special election in Fremont. About 3,800 residents voted to keep the housing measure, while 2,600 voted to drop it, according to unofficial election results from the Dodge County Election Commissioner, The New York Times reports.

Support for the measure was slightly stronger now than in the previous vote on the issue. In 2010, about 57 percent of voters approved the referendum.

The housing rules require anyone who seeks to rent a home or apartment to apply for a $5 permit and attest to their legal status, but there is no mandate to show proof. New permits are needed for every move, and landlords are required to make sure their tenants have permits or face a $100 fine, according to The Associated Press.

Will It Survive?

Now that the ban has passed, civil rights groups like the ACLU of Nebraska have vowed to keep a close eye on how the implementation of the rules.

"If this law goes into effect, it will cause discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign born, including U.S. citizens," said Laurel Marsh, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Nebraska.

Two major questions still loom: will the city leaders implement the ordinance and will the case wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court?

Fremont's mayor, Scott Getzschman, and the local Chamber of Commerce supported amending the law to remove the housing provision because of the negative publicity it was bringing to the city and the potential costs of implementing the housing restrictions.

From the appellate angle, the ban is so rife with legal controversy that it's an attractive target. Initially arriving on the heels of Arizona's strict immigration law, it fits squarely into the ongoing debate over undocumented immigration.

Other cities within the Eighth Circuit, such as Valley Park in Missouri, have modified or abandoned similar ordinances in the face of court challenges and dissent. The same goes for other circuits, including the Fifth Circuit, Third Circuit, and notoriously conservative Eleventh Circuit. Given the circuit splits and growing upheaval garnering national attention, it would be no surprise if this issue winds up on the U.S. Supreme Court's docket at some point.

If the ban goes into effect, its quest for survival is far from over. Legal challenges will likely continue, perhaps all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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