November 20, 2014

Bill filed to overturn Freemont illegal immigrant ordinance

A Fremont city councilmember says the city needs to weigh the costs of its voter-approved illegal immigrant ordinance and decide if it’s worth keeping.

Councilmember Todd Hoppe says the city now has three years of experience with the ordinance and an idea of how much the ordinance might cost the city.

“I don’t think anybody who voted for or against had any idea the magnitude of the potential money, whether it’s being sued for implementing it or for not implementing it correctly,” Hoppe tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KHUB.

Hoppe has introduced an ordinance to overturn the provision that prohibits landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. Hoppe says it could cost the city too much to defend the ordinance in court.

“We’re 200-and-some thousand dollars down in the coffers for our budget this year,” Hoppe says. “I want people to understand, we’re three years down the road. Now, we have a better idea how much money it is going to cost, or potentially. Let’s make sure that people know that you either raise taxes or cut service or both.”

Voters approved Ordinance 5165 in 2010. It prohibits landlords from renting to illegal immigrants and requires businesses to use a national electronic data base to verify the legal status of employees.

The 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the ordinance. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund have appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court.

Fremont has collected nearly $1.5 million over the past three years from a special tax to implement and defend the ordinance. Legal fees could outstrip that amount.

Federal housing officials also have made veiled threats to pull federal grants or even demand the return of past housing grants should the ordinance stand.

The motion on Hoppe’s proposal will have a second reading on November 12th.

Connie Green, KHUB, contributed to this report.