Midwest Town Mandates Immigration Check for Renters

Nebraska may not be a border state but immigration has become an increasingly contentious topic. State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont has said he may introduce a bill in the Nebraska legislature that is similar to the Arizona law.

Nebraska Braces for Costly Fight Over Immigration Ordinance

The city of Fremont is bracing for a costly fight to defend the ordinance. Similar measures passed in Farmers Branch, Texas and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, have been bogged down in costly legal battles for years.

"We don't have any choice. If we are required to fund these efforts to defend the ordinance, we'll do so and try to do so as economically as we can," Dean Skokan, the city's attorney, told ABC News. "It will be a significant budget impact."

The city said it must also factor in costs for police overtime before, during and after the election amid threats of clashes between opposing groups. Based on costs in the other two towns, the city of Fremont estimates paying $3 million, or about $1 million per year, which the city will fund through a combination of tax increases and city job cuts.

The Fremont City Council rejected the immigration proposal in 2008 but the State Supreme Court gave the green light for a vote by the citizens themselves, and supporters raised more than enough signatures to bring the ordinance to the ballot in a special election.

Groups from around the country, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (Maldef) said before the ordinance passed that they were considering legal challenges if it did.

As in the case of Arizona, opponents in Nebraska argue that such laws set by the city or state violate the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, and also violate an individual's due process rights.

The Fremont ordinance sets a "dangerous precedent," said Laurel S. Marsh, executive director of ACLU Nebraska, with the license required by a renter for every move becoming a "handy tracking mechanism."

Attorney Kris Kobach, who helped draft the Fremont ordinance and has helped write and defend similar measures around the country as well as the Arizona state law, is confident the ordinance will withstand legal challenges. He cited the example of Valley Park, Mo., where a similar ruling was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which also covers Fremont.

Kobach said lack of enforcement on the federal level is driving the trend toward states and cities taking immigration matters into their own hands.

"When the federal government is not adequately enforcing the immigration laws, the cost of non-enforcement usually -- predominantly falls at the city and state level," Kobach told ABC News, citing a 2007 study by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which calculated that the fiscal deficit of illegal immigrants totaled $89.1 billion. "It's that cost that drives the cities and states to act. They bear the ultimate burden for the failure to enforce our immigration laws."

Even though a state like Nebraska is not on the U.S. border, said Kobach, it is being burdened by the impact of illegal immigrants who are often smuggled in to work in meatpacking plants.

"Every state is a border state now, to some degree," he said. "You have different states experiencing illegal immigration in a different way."

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