Latino civil rights group sues city of Fremont to stop enforcement of illegal-immigrant law

By Margery A. Beck, AP
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Latino group sues Neb. city over immigration law

OMAHA, Neb. — A Latino civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against a small Nebraska city to stop its new ordinance that bans people from hiring or renting homes to illegal immigrants.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also known as MALDEF, said in its lawsuit that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it discriminates against Latinos based on their national origin and deprives them of due process. The group also contends it violates the federal Fair Housing Act.

Fremont City Attorney Dean Skokan said Wednesday he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it. Officials anticipated challenges to the ban.

“We expect a minimum of about three lawsuits,” Skokan said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it would file its lawsuit against the ordinance on Wednesday.

The ban, which was approved by voters in June, is set to go into effect on July 29. The ordinance put Fremont on the list with Arizona and a few other cities in the national debate over immigration regulations. The community about 35 miles northwest of Omaha has seen its Hispanic population surge in the past two decades, largely due to the jobs available at the nearby Fremont Beef and Hormel plants.

MALDEF already has seen some success in fighting such ordinances, including a ban on renting to illegal immigrants in Farmers Branch, Texas, that is similar to Fremont’s ordinance. A federal judge in March found that the Farmers Branch ordinance was unconstitutional.

Fremont officials have been watching that Texas town and others across the country that have passed such bans. Fremont officials cited Farmers Branch in a list of estimated legal costs that other cities have racked up in defending their bans. Fremont officials have estimated that its costs of implementing the ordinance — including the legal fees, employee overtime and improved computer software — will average $1 million a year.

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