Fremont, Nebraska is holding a vote today on whether to allow landlords to rent to illegal immigrants. A recent dramatic increase in Hispanic workers at meatpacking plants has caused the community to put this issue on the ballot. Those who support the bill claim that it will protect jobs, health care and the quality of educational for locals. Opponents of the bill argue that it will lead to discrimination and racial profiling.
The number of Hispanics living in Fremont has surged from about 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000, according to census expert David Drozd at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He estimated more than 2,000 Hispanics lived in the Fremont last year.
Clint Walraven, a life-long Fremont resident in this city of about 25,000, said jobs should go to unemployed legal residents. “It has nothing to do with being racist,” said Walraven, 51. “We all have to play by the same rules. “If you want to stay here, get legal.”
If the bill passes, potential renters would have to apply for a license to rent their property. City officials would review the license application to make sure the renters are not illegal immigrants. If a potential renter is found to be illegal, that person would not be allowed to rent. Additionally, Fremont businesses would be given access to a federal database to cross-check its employees residency status.
The American Civil Liberties Union office in Nebraska has said that it will sue the city if the bill passes. Fremont might have problems defending such a suit, as costs to defend it could exceed $1 million a year.