Federal court upholds city’s ban on renting to illegals

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Fremont Neb
Photo credit: Richard Rader

Voters in Fremont, Nebraska handily approved an ordinance in 2010 which banned hiring or renting to people who were in the country illegally. After an initial federal court ruling said the measure was discriminatory, an appeals court panel overturned that decision on Friday, which could set a precedent for other cities.

In addition to requiring landlords to ask for proof that renters are legal residents, the ordinance also requires businesses to use federal E-verify software to check on potential employees, according to local television station KETV.

The ruling could also have implications for Farmers Branch, Tex. and Hazelton, Pa., as appeals courts will decide on similar ordinances in those cities. Kris Kobach, a Kansas attorney who has represented Fremont since 2009 and helped draft its ordinance, hailed Friday’s opinion.

“It’s very satisfying to have the city win such a complete victory and have the court agree with virtually all our arguments,” Kobach told the Journal Star, who is also Kansas secretary of state and senior counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit over the ordinance, and was quick to condemn the ruling.  Jennifer Chang Newell, attorney for the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, released the following statement Friday:

“The court majority failed to recognize that Fremont’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from the city’s borders is not only un-American, it’s unconstitutional.”

“While the rest of the country moves forward to reform our immigration system to recognize the contributions of these hard-working immigrants, Fremont is taking us backwards with a policy of discrimination and exclusion.”

“It’s intended to discourage unlawful employment in Fremont. It’s intended to discourage unlawful residence in the U.S., at least in Fremont, because the fiscal burdens of illegal immigration fall on Fremont taxpayers,” Kobach said.

“It’s actually a great day for Fremont, a great day for America,” resident and supporter of the ordinance, John Wiegert told the Journal Star, “because, basically, we’ve put this in place, and a lot of other cities will see what we’ve done here.”

Video report available at KETV.

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