Fact sheet on immigration measure ( .PDF )
Topeka Fresh from igniting a political firestorm over illegal immigration in Arizona, Kansas Republican Kris Kobach is now in the middle of a similar battle in Nebraska.
On Monday, voters in Fremont, Neb., just outside Omaha, will go to the polls to decide the fate of a city ordinance that supporters say will reduce illegal immigration in the community of 25,000. Opponents say the ordinance is unconstitutional and will lead to a lengthy and costly legal battle.
At the center of the fray is Kobach, an attorney, former Kansas Republican Party chairman, and current GOP candidate for secretary of state.
Kobach wrote the proposed Fremont ordinance and has represented residents there in getting the measure on the ballot, according to news reports. He also was one of the main authors of Senate Bill 1070, which authorizes local law authorities in Arizona to question people they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. Opponents of that law say it will lead to racial profiling. Passage of the law sparked protests nationwide.
Kobach did not return a phone call from the Journal-World concerning his involvement in the Nebraska controversy, but he told the Fremont Tribune, “This ordinance will have a very significant impact in restoring the rule of law in Fremont.
“It will protect Fremont citizens in a very difficult job environment right now. Fremonters who are out of work are having a hard enough time putting food on the table, and competing with illegal labor is a burden they should not have to face.”
But Laurel Marsh, executive director of the ACLU in Nebraska, disagrees.
Immigration law is the bailiwick of the federal government, she said.
“We don’t benefit when cities or states take it on themselves to develop separate policies,” Marsh said.
In addition, the ordinance unconstitutionally proposes to treat people who rent differently from everybody else, she said.
If adopted, a person who wants to rent a house must go down to the police station, state that he or she is in the United States legally and buy a $5 license. Every time the person moves, and rents again, they must repeat the process, she said.
“You don’t get to treat renters differently than homeowners,” she said. “This type of litigation has been proposed in multiple jurisdictions, and has been litigated in several, and to date, has never won.”
If voters approve the measure, she said the ACLU will file an immediate request in court to stop its implementation. Fremont is home to two large meatpacking plants just outside the city.
A fact sheet on the ordinance, provided by the city of Fremont, notes that legal costs in other cities that have adopted similar ordinances have been high, and that significant budget cuts, tax increases or a combination of the two may be necessary to defend the ordinance in Fremont.