An official with the Federation for American Immigration Reform called efforts to repeal the rental portions of Fremont’s illegal immigrant ordinance “un-American,” and said her organization will be “as active as these people need me to be” as Fremont draws closer to the Feb. 11 special election.
The city has implemented E-Verify portions of the ordinance, but suspended implementing the rental portions, and on Nov. 12 the city council voted to hold a special election seeking to repeal portions requiring renters to acquire occupancy licenses.
“It’s un-American because as Americans, and the way this country was established, we have the right to self-government. That’s what the people of Fremont did when they passed this ordinance (in a referendum election on June 21, 2010). And now you have elected officials who have special interests by big business in Fremont who are saying, wait a minute, we want to keep breaking the law, we want to keep making money and having tenants pay us rent who have no legal right to even be in the nation, so we want a redo, even though the people have spoken,” said Susan Tully, national field director for FAIR, a national organization committed to reforming immigration policies.
Tully said her organization took an active interest in Ordinance 5165 from the start, after being contacted by a group of Fremont citizens, and since then FAIR attorneys wrote briefs as challenges to the ordinance made their way through the courts.
Most recently, the ordinance survived at the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. It remains to be seen whether the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund will petition the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar ordinances in Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa., were struck down by the courts, and those communities have petitioned the Supreme Court.
“My job is to work with activists who want to be effective, who don’t agree with the corruption that’s going on in this nation, and that’s looking the other way on people who come here illegally, and the businesses who employ them,” she said.
“I’m really pulling for the people,” Tully said. “I still believe that this is a nation that’s governed by the people, and Fremont is just an example of the extreme measures that American people are having to go through today because we have an elitist group of people that somehow we’ve put in office over and over again who think they know better than we do.”
Tully said her objections to the repeal effort begin with the way in which the special election came to be. Instead of the city council voting to have the election, she said, opponents to the ordinance should have been asked to circulate petitions to get the question onto the ballot – like citizens did in 2010 prior to that election.
“If they wanted to do it the right way,” she said, “instead of forcing the taxpayers of Fremont into another special election that will cost the taxpayers, why didn’t they get out and pound the street, get the signatures required, put it back on the ballot just like the people of Fremont did?”
Tully doesn’t believe new rounds of litigation could be launched upon implementation of the ordinance.
“Obviously the court has said there’s nothing wrong with the way (it’s) written … so as long as everyone has to go through the same process, citizen and non-citizen … there should not be any problems,” she said.
Rather it’s an effort Fremont should be willing to make, “because they’re being impacted,” she said.
“These people said, hey look, we have people here who don’t have a legal right to be here. They’re taking jobs that should belong to people who have a legal right to have them, they’re putting their children in our classrooms, they’re costing us millions of dollars just in Nebraska, billions of dollars in the United States,” she said. “… We can’t make Washington do their job … but we can do something here locally.”
Tully, responding to claims that the rental provisions are ineffective because renters can claim they’re in the country legally and local police, according to the ordinance, will not check those claims, said just the mere presence of the law presents a deterrent an illegal alien likely would not want to risk.
“It’s easier just to move over to the next town,” she said.
As far as negative impacts on economic development, Tully said, “That’s a business that was going to come in and break the law and make use of illegal workers who are in that town. My personal opinion is good riddance to you, I don’t want you in my town anyway.
“I have said for years,” she added, “the emphasis has been for way too long on the people who have come here illegally. It needs to be on the unscrupulous and cheating employers who use illegal labor for cheap purposes.”
She also balked at assertions that the ordinance targets Hispanics in a racist way.
“If it targets a specific racial demographic, that’s because a specific racial demographic tends to be the people who do not come in here legally,” she sad. “The truth of the matter is this isn’t about race, this is about people who don’t follow the law, and it’s not our fault what category those people happen to fall into.”
People from other parts of the world are in the United States illegally, too, and “they could all claim that this is nothing more than racial, but that’s just a detractor, that’s to get you off track and take the emphasis off who they are and what they’ve done.”