“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.
This vote in Fremont 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.
Would-be renters would be required to apply for a license from the city under the Fremont measure. Officials must refuse issuing licenses 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.
Located about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, Fremont 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 pork-processing plants.
Supporters insist 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. 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,” Mr. McClurg said. “They shouldn’t be here in the first place.”
Some residents worry local jobs are going to illegal immigrants who they fear could drain community resources.
“It's unfortunate that the majority of voters didn’t understand that we really don’t have an illegal immigration problem in Fremont,” said Kristin Ostrom, who helped organize opposition to the measure.
The Hispanic population in Fremont, including both legal and illegal residents, surged from about 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000, according to census expert David Drozd at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He said last year an estimated 2,060 Hispanics lived there.
Communities that have passed similar laws have struggled to enforce them because of legal challenges. But Kris Kobach, a Kansas City, Mo.-based attorney who helped write the Arizona law, worked on the ordinance in Fremont and has said he thinks it could withstand a court challenge.