For Immediate Release
ACLU Sues on Behalf of Fremont Residents to Block Discriminatory Law
Like Arizona Law, Ordinance Invites Racial Profiling
LINCOLN, Neb. - The American Civil Liberties Union and
ACLU Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of landlords,
tenants and employers in Fremont, Nebraska challenging a discriminatory
law that seeks to banish persons alleged to be undocumented immigrants
from rental homes in the 25,000-person town. The law also mandates that
businesses performing work in Fremont enroll in an error-ridden federal
program for verifying work status. Like the recently passed law in
Arizona, the Fremont law invites racial profiling against Latinos and
others who appear "foreign." The group will file a motion shortly
requesting that the court block the law from going into effect while the
case is litigated.
The ACLU's lawsuit charges that
Fremont's law is at odds with the clear constitutional mandate imposing a
uniform federal immigration enforcement system and has a discriminatory
effect on those who look or sound "foreign."
"This law encourages discrimination
and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign
born, including U.S. citizens," said Amy Miller, Legal Director of ACLU
Nebraska. "We're going to do all we can to make sure this extreme law,
which would lead to individuals losing housing and jobs because of their
appearance and language accent, never goes into effect. Nebraska
doesn't need a law on its books that like Arizona's, is completely out
of step with American values of fairness and equality."
The Fremont ordinance, which passed
on June 21 and is scheduled to go into effect on July 29, requires
prospective renters to provide the Fremont Police Department with
information about their citizenship or immigration status prior to
renting any home. Employers are required to check the status of would-be
hires using E-Verify, a flawed federal electronic verification program
that Congress has repeatedly declined to make mandatory.
U.S. citizens who have family members
who cannot prove their immigration status are worried about the impact
the law will have on their ability to live together as a family, and
employers are concerned that the error-ridden employment verification
program will force them to turn away lawfully authorized workers.
Residents of the town have already felt the discriminatory impact of the
Mario Martinez, a U.S. citizen of
Mexican descent who lives in Fremont, is studying for his bachelor's
degree and working part-time to support his family. His wife is a legal
U.S. resident from Mexico and they have a young child together. He has
lived in Fremont for over 13 years and is profoundly disturbed by the
hostility towards Latinos in the town and worries that he and his family
might be evicted from their home as a result of the ordinance.
"Fremont feels like a completely
different town now," said Martinez. "I'm as much a part of this
community as anyone but now I get hostile looks from people like they
want me to get out and my wife has been told to go back to Mexico
because of her accent. I'm so disappointed that a law like this could
have passed here. I always thought in this day and age laws are meant to
prevent discrimination, not encourage it."
The controversy over the Fremont law
has been closely watched across the country, and the ACLU's challenge is
the latest in a national fight against discriminatory laws like the one
recently passed in Arizona requiring police to demand "papers" from
people they stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S.
"Divisive ordinances like these tear
communities apart," said Jennifer Chang Newell, staff attorney with the
ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "It's time to stop promoting
discriminatory policies like these so that we can come together to find a
national approach to immigration."
The ACLU has successfully challenged
local anti-immigrant laws across the country, including in California,
Pennsylvania and Texas.
Attorneys on the case, Martinez v. Fremont, include Newell
and Tanaz Moghadam of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, Miller of
ACLU Nebraska and Nebraska trial counsel Alan Peterson of Lincoln and
Michael Nelsen of Omaha.
The complaint in support of a
preliminary injunction and permanent injunction can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants-
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.