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Nebraska immigration law passes

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Freemont, Nebraska measure passes
  • Measure would forbid businesses from hiring illegal immigrants
  • Measure also bans landlords from renting to illegal immigrants

(CNN) -- Voters in Fremont, Nebraska passed a much-debated immigration measure Monday that would prohibit businesses and landlords from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants.

The ordinance had divided the community and put the eastern Nebraskan city into national headlines.

A local organization decried the new ordinance on its website.

"It is with great disappointment and sadness that tonight we acknowledge a majority of Fremont voters approving this misguided ordinance," the group called One Fremont-One Future said. "In reality, the passage of this ordinance shows that we have much work to do in our community to educate, break down barriers, and build relationships."

The American Civil Liberties Union has indicated it will file a lawsuit.

Similar measures were passed in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Farmers Branch, Texas, but they were later struck down by the courts.

In Hazelton, voters in 2006 approved a measure to enact practically the same law that Fremont has voted to adopt. But in July 2007, a federal judge found that immigration laws should be left solely to the federal government.

In May of 2008, a federal judge ruled the Farmers Branch law, which would bar landlords from renting to illegal immigrants, was unconstitutional.

"Those ordinances did not withstand legal scrutiny. They both failed in the courts when they were challenged," said Laurel Marsh, executive director of Nebraska's ACLU.

The reason according to Marsh: Both laws violated the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy clause and the 14th Amendment.

In addition, she said it's the federal government's responsibility to set immigration policy and "we are not well-served when communities or states try to set policy on their own."

Gregory Minchak of the National League of Cities said that it's the lack of federal immigration policy that is causing these cities to take matters into their own hands.

"Because of the absence of the feds doing anything, there's a lot of financial, cultural, political strains that are occurring [in cities and states]," he said. "They are just starting to act on their own."