Fremont, NE Considers Steep Property Tax Hike to Defend its Anti-Immigrant Law

Outlining just how costly it is for states and municipalities to be anti-immigrant, the City Council of Fremont, Nebraska is weighing a hefty 18% property tax hike to bankroll defending its controversial anti-immigrant local ordinance in court. The law was set to go into effect on July 31, but had been put on hold pending a lawsuit in federal court. 

In June 2010, Fremont voters approved a local law that bars local landlords from renting to undocumented residents and also prohibits employers from hiring undocumented workers.  The ordinance, the first and so far only successful anti-immigrant proposal to be approved in the wake of Arizona's infamous SB 1070, met with swift legal challenges from the ACLU of Nebraska and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and is currently being debated in federal court. In preparation, the town of 25,000 residents is aiming to raise roughly $750,000 to cover the legal fees to defend Fremont's anti-immigrant law - which have reportedly already been lowered by attorney and Kansas Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach, who is the author of many state and local anti-immigrant bills and is affiliated with the controversial Immigration Reform Law Institute and its parent organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

As PSN has discussed in previous Dispatches, anti-immigrant laws at the state and local level have largely been struck down by the federal courts, which generally find these proposals to be unconstitutional.  Arizona's SB 1070, by far the most sweeping and draconian anti-immigrant state law, made it a state crime to be undocumented; required all state and local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of individuals they believed were undocumented, ; prohibited individuals from seeking work on the street; and made it a crime to aid or transport undocumented immigrants in the state.  Most of SB 1070's most troubling components, which effectively pre-empt the federal government's authority over immigration laws, were struck down in a federal court decision in late July.  Many other similar local ordinances in relatively small towns were also struck down by the courts after protracted and costly legal battles. Hazelton, Pennsylvania's ordinance cost its taxpayers $2.4 million; the legal fees to defend Farmers Branch, Texas's anti-immigrant law cost its taxpayers $4 million; and Valley Park, Missouri's ordinance cost its taxpayers $270,000.