Angered by an influx of Hispanic workers drawn by jobs at local meatpacking plants, voters in the eastern Nebraska city of Fremont will decide today whether to ban hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants.The vote will be the culmination of a two-year fight that saw proponents collect enough signatures to put the question to a public vote. If approved, the measure will require potential renters to apply for a license, and Fremont officials to check their legal status before granting one. The community of 25,000 people could also face a long and costly court battle.
A man who helped write the landmark Arizona law is helping to fight for the ordinance in Fremont, which has seen its Hispanic population surge almost tenfold—from 165 to 2,060—in the past two decades. Most of the new immigrants were recruited to work for the Fremont Beef and Hormel plants, and the city maintains an enviably low 4.9% unemployment rate. Nonetheless, residents worry that jobs are going to illegal immigrants who they fear could drain community resources. "It has nothing to do with being racist," says one resident, noting that when he worked in the Hormel plan in the 1980 he had one Hispanic coworker.