ARLINGTON — The Arlington Board of Trustees on Monday declined to develop an ordinance aimed at keeping undocumented immigrants from renting in the village.
During Monday’s monthly Board of Trustees meeting, after some discussion, a motion made by Board Member Mark Sundberg to “proceed with the development of an ordinance” was not seconded by any other board member, and so it died without a vote.
Such an ordinance would have mirrored those passed in Fremont and, more recently, Scribner, which require all those seeking to rent a home or apartment to purchase a $5 occupancy license, on which they must attest that they are citizens of the United States.
Those ordinances passed with some controversy — critics have argued that such measures risk fostering unfair discrimination against Hispanic tenants or could paint Nebraska as racist or unwelcoming. The ordinance has also faced questions about enforceability and, in Fremont’s case, led to significant legal hurdles and financial cost.
Sundberg, the board’s vice chairman, was the only board member who spoke in favor of the motion, arguing that an ordinance should be crafted to give the public an opportunity to discuss it. Others, however, expressed concern about Arlington’s ability to enforce the ordinance, potential costs and litigation and whether it could create unfair burdens on renters and landlords alike.
The issue was first brought up at the Arlington board’s January meeting, where board members agreed to talk to their constituents and gauge support for the measure, according to the Washington County Pilot Tribune.
During Monday’s meeting, Board Member Jason Wiese pointed to a report in the Omaha World-Herald that said Fremont had spent $600,000 implementing its ordinance and defending it against a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union.
He pointed out that local municipalities didn’t have the authority or ability to enforce federal immigration law, and cited the World-Herald report to argue that Fremont had been unable to confirm individuals’ immigration status through the federal government to take action against renters who are in the country illegally.
“I have some concerns about the potential of a lawsuit and also I have concerns about the price tag,” he said. “If we’re going to pass an ordinance that we can’t even enforce, I have concerns about that.”
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Sundberg explained that some concerned individuals in the community had raised the issue, and he believed that the public should have an opportunity to discuss an ordinance in an open setting.
“I think it’s worthy to develop an ordinance, put it out there, let people come in and discuss it,” he said. “You’ve got three reads. If at the end of it, it’s something you don’t want to do, don’t do it. By putting forth the ordinance, at least it gives the opportunity for the individuals who have that interest to voice their opinion.”
But Board Chairman Paul Krause expressed worry that the law could add unfair burdens onto landlords and employers, who under the Fremont and Scribner ordinances, are required to verify the citizenship of employees through federal databases that some argue are unreliable.
“I worry about what this says about our town if we do something like that and I also worry about the fact that you’re penalizing landlords and employers for something that the federal government seems to be fine looking the other way about,” Krause said.
Wiese argued that the ordinance targeted those hoping to rent in town.
“You’re telling people that they have to be owners to not be questioned about their legality?” he said.
Still, Sundberg put forward the motion, believing that the ordinance would merely affirm Arlington’s intention to follow federal law.
“There are individuals out there that want it, and whether we agree with it or not, I don’t think you can stick your head in the sand and say no,” he said. “I think there needs to be a discussion that’s had.”