FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — Almost four years after a small Nebraska city tried to crack down on illegal immigration, the town is having second thoughts about requiring all renters to swear that they have legal permission to be in the United States.
In an election Tuesday, voters in Fremont will have a chance to repeal the housing restrictions, which critics say are less effective and more costly than anyone expected and damaging to the city's image.
This conservative agricultural hub near Omaha, population 26,000, was one of a handful of cities that have acted on their own over the last decade to curb illegal immigration. Most of those efforts have become mired in costly court battles.
The same is true in Fremont, where the regulations were adopted in 2010 but put on hold while courts reviewed the law. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld most of the ordinance in 2013, and the city was getting ready to enforce the housing restrictions for the first time last fall when elected officials decided to schedule another vote.
Supporters of the ordinance want city officials to stop quarreling about the issue and start enforcing the rental rules.
"We voted on it and told you how we felt. They are just ignoring the will of the people," said Micaela Shuster, a resident who said elected officials seem to be asking the same questions over and over until they get the outcome they want.
Critics of the restrictions say they have hurt the city's reputation without accomplishing much.
"Most people agree we need to change our federal immigration system. This ordinance doesn't address that," Virginia Meyer said while taking a break from distributing roughly 500 yard signs encouraging people to vote against the rules.
Supporters insist the measure does not target Hispanics, but the topic can make for awkward conversation given Fremont's growing immigrant population. The number of Hispanics jumped from 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000 and 3,149 in 2010, mostly because of jobs at the nearby Hormel and Fremont Beef plants.