Immigration debate: fight brewing between ACLU and Nebraska town
Immigration debate is focusing on a new law in Fremont, Neb. It prevents businesses from hiring illegal immigrants and landlords from renting to them. The ACLU will challenge the law, which is similar to laws passed by at least a few dozen other towns nationwide.
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Those on the other side of the immigration debate agree with that basic assessment, and say that they hope that measures like Fremont’s, as well as the law passed in Arizona last month, will spur Congress to again take up the issue.Skip to next paragraph
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“You have Republicans who would rather stand in the way of changes that the public is demanding to federal immigration policy, and therefore allow towns like Fremont to take matters into their own hands, which does nothing to solve the problem,” says Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy organization.
Such ordinances are dangerous, he says, since “they lead to discrimination of people who look or sound like immigrants.”
How Fremont got here
In Fremont, the city council actually first took up the proposal two years ago, but it was defeated after the mayor cast a tiebreaking vote against the law, saying he believed that legally, such bans were only enforceable by the federal government. Outraged residents gathered enough petition signatures to put the issue to a vote.
As with many of the towns that have passed anti-immigrant laws, Fremont has seen an influx of immigrants in recent years, with a Hispanic population that has grown to about 2,000 people (up from less than 200 in 1990), many of whom work at nearby meatpacking plants.
Under the new law, prospective tenants would be required to apply for a license from the city and to document that they’re in the country legally. Employers would be required to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure they don’t hire an undocumented immigrant.
Despite the fact that similar measures have been struck down by other courts, the legal challenges are on far from solid ground, says Michael Hethmon, general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which helped write the law that has been the model for Fremont and other cities.
He points to the fact that the law in Valley Park – which included the employer part of the Fremont law – was upheld by a federal circuit court.
In particular, Mr. Hethmon rejects the notion that the 14th Amendment would make such laws unconstitutional.
“This is a huge constitutional crisis,” he says. “It involves the meaning of citizenship and who gets to decide it.”
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