By MONICA DAVEY, The New York Times
CHICAGO â€” Residents of a small city in eastern Nebraska voted Monday to banish illegal immigrants from jobs and rental homes, defying an earlier decision by the cityâ€™s leaders and setting off what is all but certain to be a costly and closely watched legal challenge.
InÂ Fremont , a meat-packing town of about 25,000 people, unofficial results from The Associated Press late Monday showed that 57 percent ofÂ voters approved a referendum barring landlords from renting to those in the country illegally, requiring renters to provide information to the police and to obtain city occupancy licenses, and obliging city businesses to use a federal database to check for illegal immigrants.
Opponents of the new law, including some business and church leaders, had argued that the City of Fremont simply could not afford the new law, which is all but certain to be challenged in court. In a flurry of television commercials and presentations by opponents in the final days before Mondayâ€™s vote, opponents said paying to defend such a local law would require a significant cut in Fremont city services or a stiff tax increase â€” or some combination of the two.
â€œThere were a lot of tears in this room tonight,â€ said Kristin Ostrom, an opponent who gathered with others in an old V.F.W. building to await the results. â€œUnfortunately, people have voted for an ordinance thatâ€™s going to cost millions of dollars, and that says to the Hispanic community that the Anglo community is saying they are not welcome here. They thought they were coming to a small-town community with small-town values.â€
But advocates argued that federal authorities had failed to enforce their ownÂ immigrationrestrictions, leaving places like Fremont â€” with a small but growing Hispanic population â€” to take care of such matters themselves. They complained that illegal immigrants were causing an increase in crime, taking jobs that would once have gone to longtime residents, and changing the character of their quiet city, some 30 miles of farm fields from Omaha.
Within minutes of the results being announced, officials from the A.C.L.U. Nebraska pledged to file a lawsuit as quickly as possible.
â€œIf this law goes into effect, it will cause discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign born, including U.S. citizens,â€ Laurel Marsh, executive director ofÂ A.C.L.U. Nebraska , said in a statement issued late Monday. â€œThe A.C.L.U. Nebraska has no option but to turn to the courts to stop this un-American and unconstitutional ordinance before the law goes into effect. Not only do local ordinances such as this violate federal law, they are also completely out of step with American values of fairness and equality.â€
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