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Nebraska city council to consider delaying illegal immigration law

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Fremont city administrator says his city's situation is different from Arizona's
  • The law, approved by voters in June, is scheduled to go into effect Thursday
  • The law will prevent businesses from hiring and landlords from renting to illegal immigrants
  • The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday

(CNN) -- The city council in Fremont, Nebraska, will decide Tuesday whether to delay enforcement of a new illegal immigration law in light of court challenges by civil rights groups.

City officials are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to address a temporary restraining order request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

But the council will vote on delaying the ordinance to avoid the restraining order and speed up the legal process, city officials said. The city intends to defend the local immigration ordinance.

The law was approved June 21 by voters in a special election and is scheduled to go into effect Thursday.

The law would prohibit businesses from hiring and landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. The ordinance had divided the community and put the eastern Nebraskan city into national headlines.

City Manager Robert Hartwig said the situation in his community is unlike the that of Arizona, where a controversial new immigration law is scheduled to go into effect this week.

"What's happening here in Fremont, Nebraska, is really very different from what's happening in Arizona," Hartwig said. "I think the voters here have looked down the road and they don't see the federal government effectively dealing with illegal immigration. We are a small city of 25,000 with great quality of life including good schools and quality health care. I think the voters want to make sure that it stays that way."

City Council President Scott Getzschman noted that the size and resources of Fremont could impact how city leaders proceed.

"Given the size of our city, we will make a decision based on the best interest of the citizens of Fremont. As we evaluate legal challenges ahead, we need to look at our resources carefully," Getzschman said.The city has set up an online page for residents who want to donate to its defense fund.

Miriam Berganza, who said she moved to Fremont three years ago from Texas, opposes the law.

"Fremont has grown because of the illegal immigrants," she said, adding that immigrants spend money and pay taxes. "I don't see a problem with that."

She said the new law also raises safety issues.

"We've had people be threatened ...They'll scream at them... They'll tell them go back to Mexico. Hey, not everybody is from Mexico," Berganza said.

Fremont resident Jerry Hart supports the law.

"It sends a message to people (that) we don't want illegals here... it will hopefully deter businesses in town from hiring people that are here illegally and also renting to them," Hart said. "I don't see how anybody can justify supporting people that are here illegally."

"You look at the flooding situation. You're gonna wait for FEMA to come take care of you or are you going to start sandbagging your house so you don't get flood waters in?"

Maria Archuleta, an ACLU spokeswoman, said the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 22, has been added to the list of plaintiffs. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has also filed its own suit.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed July 21, 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'."

Similar measures were passed in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Farmers Branch, Texas, but they were later struck down by the courts.

A law in Cherokee County, Georgia, remains in limbo three years after being approved, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The county is waiting for court rulings in similar cases before enforcing or dropping the ordinance, which requires landlords to check renters' immigration status. It was the first Georgia county to try such an ordinance, according to the newspaper.

Thursday is also the scheduled implementation of the new and controversial immigration law in Arizona. The measure, signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April, requires police to question people about their status if they have been detained for another reason and if there is reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally.

CNN's Chris Reinolds Kozelle contributed to this article.