Fremont, Nebraska Rejects Defunding Immigration Enforcement Ordinance
FAIR Take | September 2021
Since 2010, the city of Fremont, Nebraska has had a municipal ordinance, Ordinance No. 5165, dedicated to combating illegal immigration. This ordinance requires every employer in the city to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm they employ a legal workforce as well as bans landlords from renting to illegal aliens. Despite a recent effort to divert funds away from the enforcement of the City’s immigration ordinance, the city council voted overwhelmingly on September 7 to ensure it would remain fully funded.
The employment provisions of the ordinance, which took effect in 2012, require any employer doing business in the city to use the E-Verify system to confirm the legal work authorization of all its employees or face the loss of its business license and any city contracts, loans or grant funds.
The occupancy/anti-alien harboring provisions, which became effective in 2014, require each occupant of a residential rental property to apply for and obtain a $5 occupancy license from the city. The application for the license requires renters to declare they are a United States citizen or that they are lawfully present in the United States. Renting to anyone without an occupancy license subjects the landlord to fines of $100 a day per unauthorized occupant.
Unsurprisingly, open border advocates sued Fremont over the ordinance. In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the ordinance ruling that it was not preempted by either federal law or Nebraska state law. Following the litigation success in Fremont, the nearby city of Scribner adopted an identical ordinance in 2018. Both cities appear to have been enforcing them without any further challenges ever since.
At Fremont’s city council meeting on September 7, Mayor Joey Spellerberg’s proposed budget would have diverted funds from the ordinance’s enforcement and legal defense fund to funding six new firefighter positions. Many city residents spoke out in opposition to this idea and FAIR staff submitted testimony opposing efforts to defund or divert money away from the ordinance.
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who was instrumental in the city’s adoption and then successful litigation defense of the ordinance, wrote in a letter to the council that “[i]f Fremont were to deplete the defense fund, it would send a message that Fremont is no longer willing to defend its ordinance,” adding that “the American Civil Liberties Union had more resources at its disposal now as compared to Donald Trump’s presidency and was now focusing on cities and counties” and that “the current situation at the border and employment opportunities in Fremont would result in more illegal immigration.”
“In short, the current environment has created a perfect storm,” Kobach wrote. “In my opinion, now is not the time for Fremont to be eliminating the excellent defenses it has put in place.”
The council ultimately voted down diverting funds from the ordinance by 6-1.