Following recent clashes between anti-immigrant sentiment and the law, a U.S. District Court judge struck down the provisions of an ordinance this week -- which, prohibited undocumented persons from renting property in the city of Fremont, Nebraska -- as unconstitutional.
Passed by a majority of votes in a ballot initiative last June, the ordinance would have required the Fremont Police Department to approve "occupancy license applications" before any renter could obtain a lease.
The explicit intent of Ordinance 5165 is to "prohibit the harboring of illegal aliens or hiring of unauthorized aliens." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) filed a lawsuit last month.
"Today, the district court corrected Fremont's unconstitutional attempt to drive immigrants out of its city, and we welcome the decision," said Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, in a press release following this week’s decision.
According to plaintiffs from Martinez v. Fremont, a toxic enviornment is emerging. From the ACLU's press release :
Mario Martinez and other plaintiffs have reported that Fremont "is completely different" than it was before the ordinance passed. Incidents of discrimination and harassment from fellow residents have increased, even towards U.S. citizens such as Martinez.
The city ordinance also requires businesses to participate in the federal E-Verify Program, an online database that checks worker employment eligibility. This provision of the new ordinance was not rejected by the judge and will be effective come March.
Apparently, both sides in the debate claim some success.
Kris Kobach, the controversial Kansas Secretary of State and attorney for the Immigration Reform Law Institute -- a branch of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a "nativist hate group," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center -- is known for having a hand in crafting some of the country's most severe immigration policies. Including, Arizona's SB-1070 and Alabama's HB-56.
Kobach also authored the Fremont ordinance.
On the judge's decision, Kobach told the Fremont Tribune that, "Overall, 75 percent of the ordinance goes into effect...On the housing part of the ordinance, the city wins on the first half of it and loses the second half."