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Fremont, Nebraska, Ordinance 5165 Blocking Undocumented Immigrants From Renting Ruled Unconstitutional

Nebraska Immigration

First Posted: 02/22/2012 11:36 am Updated: 02/22/2012 12:48 pm

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."

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  • The Template: California Proposition 187 (1994)

    California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. <strong>Status:</strong> The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.

  • The Worst: Arizona SB 1070

    The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. The law was widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It required state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there was "reasonable suspicion" that the individual was undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believed was in the country illegally. <strong>Status:</strong> The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, immediately generating a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. In July 2010 and February 2012, federal judges blocked different provisions of SB 1070, setting the stage for the <a href="" target="_hplink">the Supreme Court decision of June 25, 2012</a> which struck down multiple provisions but upheld the controversial "papers please" provision, a centerpiece of the law which critics say will lead to racial profiling

  • Following Arizona's Footsteps: Georgia HB 87

    The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. <strong>Status:</strong> Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17

  • Verifying Authorized Workers: Pennsylvania HB 1502

    This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey</a>

  • A Spin Off of Arizona: Utah HB 497

    Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to the LA Times.</a> <strong>Status: </strong> Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)

  • The Most Comprehensive: Florida HB-1C

    Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. <strong>Status: </strong>effective since October 1st, 2010

  • The Hot Seat: Alabama HB 56

    The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by longislandwins</a>



Filed by Andrea Long-Chavez  |