FREMONT, NE – The Fremont, Nebraska City Council has voted to suspend a city law that seeks to banish persons alleged to be undocumented immigrants from rental homes in the 25,000-person town while the ordinance is being litigated. The ordinance, scheduled to go into effect on July 29, also mandates that businesses performing work in Fremont enroll in an error-ridden federal program for verifying work status. The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of landlords, tenants and employers in Fremont, Nebraska challenging the law.
Like the recently passed law in Arizona, the Fremont law invites racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear "foreign."
"We're relieved that the Fremont City Council will suspend this discriminatory ordinance while it's being litigated," said Amy Miller, Legal Director of ACLU Nebraska. "It was a responsible decision that will spare residents of Fremont from worrying about losing housing and jobs because of their appearance and accent pending a final resolution by the court."
The ACLU's lawsuit, filed on July 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, charges that Fremont's law is at odds with the clear constitutional mandate imposing a uniform federal immigration enforcement system and has a discriminatory effect on those who look or sound "foreign."
The Fremont ordinance, which passed on June 21, requires prospective renters to provide the Fremont Police Department with information about their citizenship or immigration status prior to renting any home. Employers are required to check the status of would-be hires using E-Verify, a flawed federal electronic verification program that Congress has repeatedly declined to make mandatory.
U.S. citizens who have family members who cannot prove their immigration status are worried about the impact the law will have on their ability to live together as a family, and employers are concerned that the error-ridden employment verification program will force them to turn away lawfully authorized workers. Residents of the town have already felt the discriminatory impact of the law.
"The city of Fremont did the right thing by stopping this unconstitutional ordinance from going into effect right now," said Jennifer Chang Newell, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "Allowing the law to go into effect before the court rules on whether it's constitutional would needlessly create even more divisiveness in the town and increased hostility toward Latinos and other people perceived as being foreign. In the meantime, we will continue to fight to stop this ordinance from ever going into effect."
The controversy over the Fremont law has been closely watched across the country, and the ACLU's challenge is the latest in a national fight against discriminatory laws like the one recently passed in Arizona requiring police to demand "papers" from people they stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S.
The ACLU has successfully challenged local anti-immigrant laws across the country, including in Escondido, California, Hazleton, Pennsylvania and Farmers Branch, Texas.
Attorneys on the case, Martinez v. Fremont, include Newell, Tanaz Moghadam and Lucas Guttentag of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, Miller of ACLU Nebraska, and Nebraska trial counsel Alan Peterson of Lincoln and Michael Nelsen of Omaha.
Legal documents in the case can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/martinez-v-fremont
More information about the Arizona law can be found at: www.aclu.org/what-happens-arizona-stops-arizona