Fremont, NE Voters Pass Anti-Undocumented Immigrant Measure

Fremont, NE Chamber of Commerce Building - Photo: llis45/flickr

Fremont, NE Chamber of Commerce Building. (Photo: llis45/flickr)

After a two year battle, voters in a small city in Nebraska have decided that they will essentially make it impossible for paperless immigrants to live or work within city-limits. Under the harsh new law local businesses will be banned from hiring undocumented immigrants and landlords prohibited from renting to them.

The Fremont Tribune posted unofficial results from the Dodge County Clerk’s Office showing voters approved the measure 57 percent to 43 percent in the special election. With approximately 45 percent voters turnout, 3,906 ballots were cast in favor of the ordinance and 2,908 against.

Immediately, the ACLU of Nebraska announced it would file a suit against the law, saying it was un-American and unconstitutional.

In a striking difference from Arizona, which passed a controversial law targeting undocumented immigrants in late April, Fremont has a relatively small undocumented immigrant population: an estimated 2,000—about 10 percent of Fremont’s population. Yet they’ve set off a passionate battle that is dividing the city. In the past few weeks, vandalism and contentious arguments have been documented in local newspapers. Opponents of the law say it will spur discrimination and hurt the city economically. Supporters allege that immigrants are stealing jobs and causing crime to rise in the community of 25,000. Yet there is no data supporting those claims, and statistics show the perception of civil ills caused by undocumented immigrants is much greater than the reality.

In an interesting twist, Fremont has a low employment rate of just 4.9 percent, well under the national average of 9.7 percent, signaling that job competition probably is not the real motivation behind this law. Hispanic immigrants have been subject to racial slurs on the streets of Fremont, and some wonder if the law stems from discomfort about the changing face of a city that was once a mostly-white farming and railroad town.

Voters had to respond Yes or No to the question below:

PROPOSED ORDINANCE NO. 5165

“Shall the City of Fremont, Nebraska, enact proposed Ordinance No. 5165, amending the Fremont Municipal Code to prohibit the harboring of illegal aliens or hiring of unauthorized aliens, providing definitions, making provision for occupancy licenses, providing judicial process, repealing conflicting provisions, and establishing an effective date for this ordinance?”

Kristin Ostrom, who opposes the measure, said that fear was motivating people in Fremont. “Fear is kind of guiding,” Ostrom told the Associated Press, adding that frustration about immigration issues nationwide has fanned the misconception that all Hispanic immigrants in Fremont are illegal.

In the absence of national immigration reform, many other states have introduced similar legislation to Arizona’s SB 1070. But Fremont’s case is somewhat unique, because the city’s local political leaders refused to approve the law, saying it would be too costly to pay for litigation. Subsequently, a group of residents forced it all the way up to the Nebraska Supreme Court, where they got approval to take the issue to voters in a referendum. Its an instance where citizens took immigration policy into their own hands, despite the fact that it virtually assures expensive legal challenges for stepping into the jurisdiction of the federal government. Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaked that the Department of Justice will sue Arizona over SB 1070.

Tension rose in Fremont from the fact that immigrants have become a visible part of the workforce at local meatpacking plants. In March, immigration officials arrested 17 workers in an “enforcement action” at the Fremont beef plant. Under the new law, employers will be required to use the E-Verify system to determine the legal status of employees. But ironically, the meatpacking plants are outside the city limits and won’t be subject to the ordinance. Supporters say that doesn’t matter. “‘We have to start somewhere,’ John Wiegert, a resident, told The New York Times.

The Washington Post reports that city leaders say the ordinance will cost Fremont at least $1 million a year to implement and enforce, and they’ll have to raise taxes and cut services to pay for it.

“It’s the wrong solution,” said longtime resident Don Hinds, owner of a commercial investment business in the city. It would be a “tremendous burden on landlords, city officials and the police department.”

Despite the passage of Ordinance No. 5165, and potentially additional anti-undocumented immigrant legislation in other parts of the country, there are no signs from the Obama Administration or Congress that a comprehensive immigration bill will be considered this year. In the meantime, we’ll be seeing a lot of court battles.

21 comments

  1. Prudence

    Bravo for Fremont and every other place that protects legal citizens from supporting illegal immigration by tolerating it within their borders. Since the worthless feds. whose responsibility it is to enforce immigration laws is neglecting it’s duties, good citizen in such places as Fremont will set the pace for the rest of the country in rejecting illegal immigration.

  2. LetsBeReal

    Why has the media shifted from “illegal” immigrant to the term “undocumented ” immigrant? Is it to make it seem less illegal? This issue has nothing to do with racism or nationalism — to claim so just demonstrates one’s ignorance — rather it has to do with obeying and enforcing existing laws.

    We have millions of illegal immigrants within our borders — a security and “terrorism” nightmare by any standard — and the federal government has been looking the other way. The hypocrisy of the “war on terror” is astounding — I get body scanned and all my personal effects are examined when I travel, and we have spent billions build the infrastructure to do so.

    Yet, we have open borders and the government doing nothing about it while at the same time claiming to have a war on terror and prioritizing our nation’s security. We have immigration laws and proper channels for legal immigration and they need to be enforced or they have no worth. Personally I would like to see the anchor baby loophole closed, but that is another issue.

    It is clear the government is of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation. Immigration, war on “terror”, warrant-less searches, indefinite detention, the end of habeas corpus, trillions to the banks, privatizing profit and socializing debt, unlimited special interest spending, authorities knocking on your door for attending a protest, etc, etc, etc. It is not “our” government, it is “the” government. There is a huge difference!

    It doesn’t matter who you vote in anymore the system is rigged. The will of the people is ignored in favor of the will of the corporation. Come on, wake up people!

  3. commonsenseinarizona

    Finally the citizens are rising up against the illegal immigrants. Get it right, the term is “illegal immigrant”. You act as if they lost of misplaced their papers… news flash… they broke the law and stepped in front of thousands of people waiting to legally enter the country. You are going to lose the battle when you step on the rights of Americans in favor of anarchy.

  4. Melinda Fincham

    How very sad for the city of Fremont and Nebraska. The citizens of Fremont can be proud they are now part of history to be compared to the segregationist south and Jim Crow laws. So now everyone who looks Hispanic will be forced to carry papers or risk being deported whether or not they are legal immigrants? Before long you’ll be welcoming Fred Phelps and giving him the key to the city!

  5. To all of you who think the illegals suffered, whether or not they were breaking the law. Should we save each of our states big bucks by freeing all the incarcerated idiots……after all, all they did was……break the law.
    lionheart

  6. Stephen

    Fremont should just quit screwing around and the pass the law they REALLY want to pass: Only Whites Allowed in Fremont, NE!

  7. C Howell

    When are politians and the media going to get it? I applaud Freemont. Americans are not tired of immigrants, we are tired of illegal immigrants. Politians are going to figure that out but most will “get it” too late to serve their public in the future. I am from Alabama and I have to drive through “sancuary” cities to shop. I wish all cities would wake up. Arizone, Fremond, and others are doing what our government should have done a long time ago. Good work Fremont.

  8. voted no

    I’m embarrassed to say I live in this town. They believe that anyone that is non-white is illegal, stealing our jobs, not paying hospital bills,etc.

    During the last 2 years of discussing this issue with locals, it is evident that the supporters are of low education.

  9. Todd Boudreaux

    As a resident of Southern California, we see every day the negative impact of illegal immigrants and how much of our government funds, (3 billion in debt in CA) that have been wasted on a number of social services that somehow are paid to those who have never paid taxes and now we even have Department of Labor Secretary, Solis who is going to enforce businesses to pay workers :UNDOCUMENTED or not!!! When will the American’s wake up and figure out that we’ve pretty much been taken over and not by folks who even want to learn english or acclimate to this countries laws and way of life.
    It’s simply not economically feasable to pay for all these illegals and its amazing to me that any citizen would agree to open the borders or believe in an immigration reform plan, especially since we have millions of tax paying citizens who are unable to find employment!
    Not to mention all the violence and now a threat to a Texas Dam, which could have costed the US millions! And why is it that the Border Patrol cannot enforce the laws on federal land?? And why is ICE not doing their jobs?? It simply does not make any sense! I know what I will do….. more than likely find a NEW AMERICA as this one is taking a completely different turn than those of our founding fathers!!! I have no problem with who it is coming across the border… I have a problem with anyone crossing the borders illegally and especially if they don’t have anything to offer, and instead cost our country so much in social services, overcrowded school classrooms, and NO, THEY ARE NOT JUST PICKING STRAWBERRIES anymore…. they are not just taking the jobs that “American’s won’t do…. they are taking jobs that Anerican citizens can and were doing before they came over and offered to do the same jobs for much less…. yes we’d all be able to afford much more if we were paid under the table and obtaining HUD, reductions in electricity and phone bills, and had food stamps and welfare! And what’s with having so many children when you are not able to take care of them financially? Yes, the way to obtain a raise is to have more children…. as your food stamps and welfare check will undoubtedly rise with the number of children you have…. wow, there it is! The businesses that have decided to hire these folks are part of the problem and although there are fines in place for hiring undocument, illegals, the businesses are only concerned with greed and although they were still making money before hiring illegals, they now are trying to convince us that they wouldn’t be able to afford paying folks a fair wage!!! Ha! Well, if you are one of the business owners, good luck as now Secretary Solis will be in touch with you to ensure that you are paying a “fair wage” to these undocumented workers!!
    The only answer is to enforce the Constitution… yes the real one, enforce the laws by deporting those who are here illegallly and then we will more than likely not have as many issues with our economy and unmployment!

  10. not a solution

    I totally agree with you “voted no.” I am ashamed to call Fremont my hometown. I would like to know the statistic on how many people of the 4.9% unemployed are Hispanic versus white. In my 22 years of living in Fremont, I haven’t been bothered by the rising Hispanic population, but rather the rising population of white trash. I can’t think of any Hispanics I know living on welfare, but I know white people who have been living off the system for practically their entire adult life.

    And let’s be realistic, if this law stands (which would be shocking if it survives the ACLU lawsuit) it will only hurt the city. Not only will the economics of the city see a drastic change, but the community will be further ripped apart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that illegal immigration is not a problem in this country as a whole, but this law is not the solution.

    It is clear that the citizens who worked to get this vote to happen have not thought about the effects this law could have.

  11. bravo

    I also lived in this city and I can say that I am educated and I believe this is the right thing to do. IT was mentioed above that its sad small cities have to create laws to anforce the laws that are already there. I graduated from fremont in 04 and went to college, graduated and came back for a few months and everything has changed for the worse. Pretty soon the town will be like Grand Island Nebraska where the mexican gangs run the town, theres shootings all the time and you cant go downtown without being fluent in spanish because none of the signs are in english.

  12. Diane

    I’m from Fremont and I would like to respond to a few comments

    “Racism”

    This vote had NOTHING to due with racism. Yes, it is a small town that has historically been predominantly white. BUT I have never felt it a hotbed of racism. I feel we are able to embrace immigrants no matter what their country of origin.

    The important issues to most small town folk has nothing to do with the color of your skin, all we care about is if you work hard and follow the rules. As the article stated with a local unemployment rate of nearly ½ that of the nation it’s pretty obvious, immigrant or not nearly all of us in Fremont are hard workers. Which leaves the question of are the rules being followed? And if anyone is here from another country illegally, then NO, they are NOT following the rules.

    Don’t knock Fremont citizens for wanting immigration laws to be enforced, if you don’t like it then change the immigration laws. But until that happens if you BROKE THE LAW just to get here then we don’t feel we should be required to aid and abed you while you are here in the US ILLEGALLY by providing you a home or a job.

    Shoot, even my brother-in-law who moved to the US LEGALLY from Mexico City long before marrying my sister voted in favor of this ordinance. He is just as fed up with people moving into the US illegally and expecting everyone else to just turn a blind eye.

    “Dying Community”

    I think NOT, Fremont’s population has grown slowly and steadily from a town of 20K to 25K over the last 40 years. And, the packing plants were here long before illegal immigrants, so the whole argument that only an illegal immigrant would want to do the work is pure BULL!! For decades our community has considered a job at the local Hormel plant as a good job to get. In fact for many years it was near impossible to get hired there unless you knew someone.

    Even if by some chance the loss of illegal immigrants caused the local plant to move to a more ILLEGAL immigrant friendly community. SO WHAT!? Fremont is located close enough to Omaha that a significant percentage of our residents already live here for the small town community and work in Omaha. I would be surprised at any long-term damage to the community, if we lost a business that was unwilling to stay in a community that enforced the National laws requiring them to hire LEGAL citizens.

  13. Diane

    Oh, and by the way – I have a PHD and have spent many years abroad in Europe. I am neither uneducated, nor am I a small town narrow-minded bumpkin. Maybe the truly uneducated voters are those who think it is OK to break laws and don’t understand it is not right to aid others in the breaking of them.

  14. Jimmy

    The fact that this law has passed disgusts me. I am from a town in Nebraska even smaller than Fremont and have seen the racism and bigotry in small-town Nebraska. I really hope that ACLU’s law suit being filed against the city helps turn this entire mess around. I am all for immigration reform, but I am not an advocate for laws that encourage racial profiling.

  15. voted no

    I apologize for calling supporters “non-educated”. I honestly do not want to begin slinging insults back and forth. Sorry.

    To: “Not a Solution”,
    Thanks. (And I agree with you. I am tired of the white Fremonters that know how to work the welfare system.) Illegal immigration is a major issue for the United States as a whole and the federal government needs to address it. But – just as you said – THIS is not the solution. Fremont cannot afford to enforce this law, and the lawsuits that will follow.

  16. David

    Illegal immigration could be solved by making the penalty so severe for hiring or renting to illegals that employers and landlords would not risk the consequences. Coupled with eliminating government assistance to any person who cannot prove they’re a US citizen would dry up the migration. No job, No place to live and No free hands outs, No reason to come here.

  17. ronk1957

    I am in total agreement with the media calling them UNDOCUMENTED. I am writing this from my jail cell. I was just convicted of three rapes even after I told them that I was an UNDOCUMENTED sex therapist. And to add insult to injury they gave me another 10 year sentence for drug trafficking even though I explained that I was an UNDOCUMENTED pharmacist! I can’t wait to get out of prison and come to a town where UNDOCUMENTED people aren’t considered to be illegal. Maybe I’ll bring my gangbangers oh sorry I mean UNDOCUMENTED social workers with me. See you soon

  18. magyart

    Even if the unemployment rate in Fremont is low, why should even a single illegal immigrant be employed ?

    Millions of legal immigrants and forgin workers use the legal pathway that has been established for them. Legal immigrants deserve our respect and support. Illegal immigrants don’t.

  19. Don

    First of I would like to say that I am an American of Mexican decent . That said I think that these cities that are doing things like this are taking steps back instead of going forward . We will see what happened to the African Americans all over again just with Hispanics . I think that all the real illeagals are the whites who robbed the native Americans of they’re lands . Oh and guess what , where do you think native Americans came from ? Gee golly you got it from Mexico and central America ! AMERICA was built by imigrants for imigrants who ever does not like it can take they’re racist generations of families and move back where they’re decendants came from . Which by the way were most likely illegal . What I think needs to be done is have a Mexican American walking the streets with no Id if he gets stopped respond in only Spanish most likely he’ll get deported and have one of his famil member go to the border give him his papers come back and sue the hell out of everybody ! That will really prove that these laws are not just for imigrants but for anybody that looks hispanic that is being raped out of they’re constitutional rights !

  20. Sumummabish

    How is 10% of the population being illegal immigrants a LOW percentage?!?!  That is the whole reason the law was passed… one in every ten people is an illegal alien.  Go through the proper channels and the law doesn’t affect you.  By the way, nowhere in the law is an ethnicity targeted. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed German without documentation is subject to the same restraints.  Become a citizen, get a job, enjoy America.  Don, I thoroughly enjoy you calling the lawmakers and citizens racist, while you yourself are the one invoking race and stereotyping.  I don’t care where you come from, or what your religion is, you make a choice to enter this country and FOLLOW ITS LAWS.  Why should people be exempt just because they enter the country illegally?

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