Boulder and Scribner: A Tale of Two Cities on Illegal Immigration
By Colton Overcash | August 2, 2018
When it comes to sanctuary policy, very few cities are recognized for their efforts to comply with federal law and restrict illegal immigration in their respective jurisdictions. A small Nebraska town called Scribner is an exception and certainly worth following.
On July 30, the Scribner City Council voted unanimously to put an ordinance on the November ballot that would ban illegal aliens from renting housing or working within city limits.
The Scribner ordinance is modeled after the nearby city of Fremont’s Ordinance 5165, which was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit in 2013 (read the court’s opinion and the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s explanation of the case history).
Representatives from the Nebraska ACLU and the Immigrant Legal Center of Omaha have predictably spoken out against the ordinance. ACLU spokeswoman Danielle Conrad denounced it, saying it will “invite racial profiling and risks increased harassment and discrimination.”
Yet that oft-repeated claim that anti-sanctuary policies encourage racism and harassment has never been empirically proven, and was in fact rejected by the Eighth Circuit when it ruled on the Fremont ordinance. In its decision, the court held that the ordinance was not discriminatory and is consistent with both state and federal law.
Unfortunately, not every city is faithful towards the law like Fremont is, and like Scribner aims to be in following it. Others choose to adopt extreme and radical policies that ignore the law. A particularly striking example of this is Boulder, Colorado.
The Boulder City Council is considering an ordinance that would expand protections for illegal aliens, including equal access to taxpayer-funded housing, employment opportunities, and public accommodations. At issue is the city’s human rights ordinance, which protects residents against discrimination “based on ancestry, color, creed, gender variance, genetic characteristics, marital status, mental disability, physical disability, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.” The new ordinance would add immigration status to that list of categories.
The city council maintains that the current ordinance does not go far enough to protect low-income residents and illegal aliens. Specifically, they worry that software programs used by landlords to perform background checks are discriminatory because they require a Social Security Number.
The updated ordinance was subject to two readings and a public information session. The city council added it to its regular agenda for September 20, where it will be considered for a final vote.
If the updated ordinance becomes law, it will prohibit landlords from denying illegal aliens access to housing, including affordable and Section 8 opportunities. While federal housing programs, like Section 8, require at least one member of the household to have legal immigration status, it does not apply to secondary residents who may be illegal.
Therefore, an illegal alien could receive subsidized housing, paid for in part for by federal taxpayers, under the lease of another resident, or cite a legal relative as a household member. Illegal aliens could also apply for fair-market-value property outright and not be rejected solely on their immigration status.
Access to employment and other public accommodations is another concern. Officials are worried that the current ordinance restricts employers from hiring illegal aliens, including DACA recipients. Of course, employing illegal aliens is already illegal under federal law.
Should the new ordinance take effect, employers will not have to verify the immigration status of employees, so long as they are private businesses. E-verify only applies to state contractors in Colorado.
The Boulder Area Rental Housing Association voiced its concerns over the ordinance, stating that it “opposed (the measure) right out of the gate.”
In 2017, Boulder adopted Ordinance 8162, which created a “bill of rights” for illegal aliens. It is already designated as a sanctuary city in a recent study by FAIR, so the new ordinance would further bolster that status.
Unlike Scribner, Boulder is expanding an irresponsible ordinance that puts American citizens and legal immigrants at a disadvantage. The city council should reject its reckless policy of protecting illegal aliens and resume complying with federal immigration law immediately.