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U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Nebraska Immigration Case

Nebraska Immigration Case

Fremont Tribune, Associated Press, The Guardian – U.S. Edition

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to a Fremont, Neb., ban on renting apartments to undocumented immigrants. Various civil rights groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, sought to overturn the ban on the grounds that it violated federal immigration law. The high court’s decision not to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal preserves the June 2013 ruling of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded there was no conflict with federal law.

The Fremont ordinance, originally passed in 2010, requires renters to obtain a $5 occupancy permit and swear that they have legal permission to live in the United States. Any apartment owner or manager who continues to rent to occupants without a license could face a $100 fine. The ordinance has survived several legal challenges since its initial passage, including a ballot referendum in February that sought to repeal it. The housing restrictions had been on hold while lawsuits moved through the courts; nearly 60 percent of voters backed the restrictions and requirements on both renters and owners.

Attorney Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and driving force behind this and similar ordinances around the country, said that the May 5 decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for other cities in the Eighth Circuit to adopt similar laws. The circuit includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

It remains likely that any city choosing to adopt such an ordinance would face costly legal fights from advocacy groups opposed to these laws. In March, the Supreme Court declined to take up two cases in which lower courts had struck down similar ordinances in Hazelton, Pa., and Farmers Branch, Texas, respectively. Those ordinances both impose penalties on immigrants, which Fremont’s does not.

The Nebraska Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union stated it will keep close tabs on the City of Fremont and will consider a new lawsuit if tenants report discrimination. The federal appeals panel that upheld the ordinance in June left an opening for future lawsuits if people can show the rules have resulted in discrimination.