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Nebraska town to vote on illegal immigration measure

Published June 20, 2010 5:29 pm

Politics » Residents could ban renting to undocumented workers today.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Angered by a recent influx of Latino workers attracted 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 undocumented 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 the ordinance is approved, the community of 25,000 people could face a long and costly court battle. Either way, the emotions stirred up won't settle quickly.

"Even if we say 'no' ... we still need to say, 'How do we get along with each other now?' " said Kristin Ostrom, who helps oversee a campaign against the measure.

Across the nation, people have been outraged by -- and demanded action against -- the poor enforcement of federal laws to prevent illegal immigration. A law recently introduced in Arizona requires police to question people on their immigration status if there's a "reasonable suspicion" they are illegal.

A man who helped write the Arizona law is helping to fight for the ordinance in Fremont, which has seen its Latino population surge in the past two decades. That increase is largely because they were recruited to work for the Fremont Beef and Hormel plants, and the city maintains an enviably low unemployment rate.

Nonetheless, residents worry that jobs are going to undocumented immigrants who they fear could drain community resources.

Clint Walraven, who has lived in Fremont all his 51 years, said the jobs should go to legal residents who are unemployed -- something he believes the ordinance would help fix. Discussions on the issue can get heated, he said, particularly if racism is mentioned.

"It has nothing to do with being racist," he said. "We all have to play by the same rules. ... If you want to stay here, get legal."

Nebraska town votes on immigration