Thursday, July 22, 2010
The Ordinance 5165 provides that all persons renting or leasing dwelling units obtain an “occupancy license” from the city. The fee is $5.00, and requires “citizens or nationals” to sign a declaration so stating, and
in cases in which the applicant is not a United States citizen or national, an identification number assigned by the federal government that the occupant believes establishes his lawful presence in the United States (examples include, but are not limited to: resident alien card number, visa number, "A" number, 1-94 registration number, employment authorization number, or any other number on a document issued by the U.S. Government). If the alien does not know of any such number, he shall so declare. Such a declaration shall be sufficient to satisfy this requirement.
Fremont Ordinance 5165 also requires that “Every business entity employing one or more employees and performing work within the City shall register in the [federal] E-Verify Program within 60 days after the effective date of this Ordinance, and shall use the E-Verify Program to verify the authorization of employment in the United States of each employee hired after such registration.
Interestingly, before the vote, the City of Fremont itself brought an action in state court seeking a declaratory judgment that any ordinance resulting from the ballot initiative would be unconstitutional in contravention of the Supremacy Clause. The Nebraska Supreme Court issued its opinion in April: it did not rule on the merits of the Supremacy Clause argument, holding instead that “substantive challenges to proposed initiatives are not justiciable before the measure is adopted by voters.” (The city also argued that the ballot measure violated the state constitution’s “single subject” rule, but the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s conclusion that the measure did have “one general subject- - - the regulation of illegal aliens in Fremont.”)
Two complaints have been filed in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Ordinance.
The ACLU Nebraska Foundation and various named plaintiffs have filed a Complaint in the US District Court for Nebraska seeking an injunction against enforcement of the Fremont Ordinance. The complaint alleges that the Fremont Ordinance is subject to preemption under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI; that the Fremont Ordinance is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause; that the Fremont Ordinance is void for vagueness under the Due Process Clause; and that the Ordinance violates the Federal Fair Housing Act and state laws regarding municipal powers.
The Complaint filed by MALDEF that includes a landlord as a named plaintiff also seeks an injunction and likewise alleges preemption and equal protection, and also includes a commerce clause claim.In defending the lawsuits, the City of Fremont is in the unenviable position of having the complaints filed against it repeat the very arguments it previously advanced. According to the Nebraska Supreme Court opinion:
The Nebraska Supreme Court followed this recitation of the city’s argument by stating: “We point out that a measure is not unconstitutional until a court makes such a determination.”Fremont points out that courts have uniformly determined that harboring and housing provisions such as those contained in the Measure are preempted by federal law and therefore are unconstitutional. It therefore asserts that measures which are unconstitutional or void are beyond the power or authority of a municipality to enact and are therefore not subject to initiative or referendum.
The federal district court in Nebraska now has the task of making such a determination. Some of our previous discussions of preemption/Supremacy Clause and other arguments regarding immigration laws passed by states and localities are available here, here and here. An excellent news report on the Fremont, Nebraska controversy is here.