Fremont, Neb., has implemented a new licensing scheme aimed at keeping illegal immigrants from living in the small city of 26,000 people. The Associated Press reports the new law requires anyone who wants to rent an apartment or home in the town to acquire a $5 occupancy license after filling out a form declaring themselves to be in the country legally.
The law took effect Thursday and the city issued two licenses. Fremont Police Chief Jeff Elliott said there were more reporters than applicants at the licensing office that day.
Fremont is situated 30 miles northwest of Omaha and residents there first approved similar restrictions in 2010. Those laws were put on hold pending legal challenges. Amid the controversy the City Council of Fremont gave voters a chance to vote again on the licenses. In February 60 percent of voters reaffirmed their desire for the regulations.
A Nebraska district court blocked the first law, according to NBC News, but that decision was overturned by the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals.
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As it stands now, only the U.S. Supreme Court could strike down the controversial restrictions.
The Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) has filed an appeal to get the case in front of the high court. The organization would like to see the law struck down.
"Supreme Court review of the Fremont ordinance is absolutely necessary in this case,” said Alonzo Rivas, an attorney for MALDEF. “The Eighth Circuit's ruling now encourages other states and localities in that region of the country to enact similar laws to expel their immigrant populations, thus, creating a patchwork of immigration policies that will diminish the federal government's control over the subject.”
Critics of the law who live in the town argue the restrictions will be largely ineffective and only serve to hurt the town’s image. They point out that other cities who have tried similar laws only wound up in expensive court cases, according to a second Associated Press story.
That fate may still await Fremont. The Supreme Court is expected to decide later this spring if it will hear the case.