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Immigration debate: Nebraska town passes tough immigration law; ACLU to file lawsuit

Immigration debate continues as a Nebraska town approves ban on hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants. The ACLU has promised to file a lawsuit to block enforcement.

By Josh FunkAP / June 22, 2010

Immigration debate: The American Civil Liberties Union already has promised to file a lawsuit to block enforcement of the proposal roughly 57 percent of Fremont, Nebraska voters supported Monday.

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Fremont, Neb.

This small Nebraska meatpacking town has joined Arizona at the center of a national debate about illegal immigration after voters approved a ban on hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants, but an expected court challenge could keep the measure from ever taking effect.

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The American Civil Liberties Union already has promised to file a lawsuit to block enforcement of the proposal roughly 57 percent of Fremont voters supported Monday.

"In a community of 25,000, it's going to be hard to take on the whole country, and it will be costly to do so," said Fremont City Councilman Scott Getzschman, who opposed the measure but said city leaders would support the results.

IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border

Fremont's vote is the latest chapter in the tumult over illegal immigration across the country, including a recently passed Arizona law that will require police investigating another incident or crime to ask people about their immigration status if there's a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally.

The Fremont measure will require would-be renters to apply for a license from the city. Officials must refuse to issue a license to applicants found to be in the country illegally. The ordinance also requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure employees are allowed to work.

The city, which is about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, has watched as its Hispanic population surged in the past two decades, largely due to the jobs available at the nearby Fremont Beef and Hormel meatpacking plants.

Supporters argued the measure is needed to make up for what they see as lax federal law enforcement. Opponents said it could fuel discrimination.

Linda Nafziger said she voted for the ordinance because she doesn't think the community should be supporting illegal immigrants. But she acknowledged the measure won't end illegal immigration.

"They'll just move somewhere else and be somebody else's problem," she said.

Trevor McClurg said the measure is fair because it's aimed at people who aren't legally in the U.S.

"I don't think it's right to be able to rent to them or hire them," McClurg said. "They shouldn't be here in the first place."

Some residents worry that jobs are going to illegal immigrants who they fear could drain community resources.