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Nebraska city council delays enforcement of new immigration law

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Fremont's new immigration law will not take effect Thursday
  • The immigration law was approved by voters on June 21
  • The law would prohibit businesses from hiring and landlords from renting to illegal immigrants
  • ACLU: The decision was "responsible"

(CNN) -- The city council in Fremont, Nebraska, voted Tuesday to delay enforcement of a new illegal immigration law in light of court challenges by civil rights groups.

City officials are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to address a temporary restraining order request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The council voted on delaying the ordinance to avoid the restraining order and speed up the legal process, city officials said.

The law was approved June 21 by voters in a special election and was scheduled to go into effect Thursday.

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The law would prohibit businesses from hiring and landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. The ordinance had divided the community and put the eastern Nebraskan city into national headlines.

City Manager Robert Hartwig said Monday the situation in his community is unlike the that of Arizona, where a controversial new immigration law is scheduled to go into effect on Thursday.

"What's happening here in Fremont, Nebraska, is really very different from what's happening in Arizona," Hartwig said. "I think the voters here have looked down the road and they don't see the federal government effectively dealing with illegal immigration. We are a small city of 25,000 with great quality of life including good schools and quality health care. I think the voters want to make sure that it stays that way."

ACLU Nebraska released a statement Tuesday night calling the council vote "responsible."

"We're relieved that the Fremont City Council will suspend this discriminatory ordinance while it's being litigated," said Amy Miller, legal director of ACLU Nebraska. "It was a responsible decision that will spare residents of Fremont from worrying about losing housing and jobs because of their appearance and accent pending a final resolution by the court."

City Council President Scott Getzschman said earlier that the size and resources of Fremont could impact how city leaders proceed.

"Given the size of our city, we will make a decision based on the best interest of the citizens of Fremont. As we evaluate legal challenges ahead, we need to look at our resources carefully," Getzschman said. The city has set up an online page for residents who want to donate to its defense fund.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed July 21, charges that Fremont's law is at odds with "the clear constitutional mandate imposing a uniform federal immigration enforcement system and has a discriminatory effect on those who look or sound 'foreign'."