JULY 22, 2009
Officials in a Nebraska city continue blocking a public vote on a measure to curb illegal immigration even though a judge has ruled that the election must be allowed.
The proposed law seeks to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent property to them in Fremont, a municipality west of Omaha with about 25,000 residents. The city bills itself as a progressive agribusiness community that provides a small town atmosphere and affordable living with big city amenities.
Its appeal has also attracted a lot of illegal aliens and residents want to nip the problem before it becomes a crisis. About a year ago Fremont’s City Council rejected the illegal immigration measure and three Fremont residents petitioned for a special election to vote on the ordinance, gathering more than the required signatures to put it on a ballot.
When city officials refused to conduct an election, the case went to court and in late April a Dodge County District Court Judge ruled that the public vote can go forward. The city has appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, claiming that the proposed immigration law is unenforceable because it’s unconstitutional and preempts federal immigration law.
In court papers, Fremont’s City Attorney says that the measure doesn’t provide sufficient safeguards to protect constitutional property rights and would violate the 1968 Fair Housing Act which makes it illegal to refuse to sell or rent housing to anyone based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex or handicap.
Other municipalities across the nation have spent substantial amounts of taxpayer dollars to legally defend similar ordinances and several have been struck down in court after racking up hefty legal bills. Among them is Hazleton Pennsylvania and Farmers Branch Texas.
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