Fremont, Neb. joined the ranks of the rebels on Monday when its citizens passed an ordinance by popular vote regulating policies for businesses and landlords, earning its place alongside the state of Arizona in the immigration debate.
Like Arizona, Fremont is proactively combatting illegal immigration, a newly-passed ordinance requiring businesses and landlords to confirm the status of its workers, denying work to those without proper documentation.
And, like Arizona, Fremont will likely face court time, as the ACLU has vowed to file a suit against this ordinance — an action that will cost the city legal fees.
But this situation differs from Arizona in one very important sense: this ordinance did not come from a legislative body but from the will of the people. This will open up the door for more states and more communities to similarly experiment in the laboratory of the states, leaving the decision in the hands of the people and allowing federalism take its course.
Of course, with about a 57% majority, there is plenty of arguments against the ordinance. Critics of the law say that it violates our sense of fairness and that it is unwelcoming to the Hispanic community. As Laurel Marsh, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska put it:
“The ACLU Nebraska has no option but to turn to the courts to stop this un-American and unconstitutional ordinance before the law goes into effect. Not only do local ordinances such as this violate federal law, they are also completely out of step with American values of fairness and equality.”
This points out the greater problem we face with immigration reform, and that is that a legal issue being turned into a personal issue. Of course America is founded on immigration, but there are also necessary processes one most go through to achieve the status of a legal immigrant. Let's reward those who have gone through that process by combatting those who did not (this is not, in fact, an “anti immigration law”).
People tend to overlook a key word in the term “illegal immigrants” — the “illegal” part. We don't worry about making sex offenders feel unwelcome in our communities when we put them on a list. This may seem a harsh parallel, but the fact remains that they, too, have broken the law. Point being: when you break the law, expect consequences.
Another popular argument against the ordinance is money. It will cost millions of dollars in tax increases, etc., to enforce this. Yet this isn't being forced on the people of Fremont. They voted, and the majority approved it, thus accepting the financial consequences. Keeping illegal immigrants in the community still costs the community, but in a manner to which they did not consent. So if community members are going to lose money, why not lose money pursuing something they voted for?
This debate, ongoing in Nebraska, Arizona and other states besides, points to a theme: in the absence of federal government action, state and local governments are reaching a breaking point. If the federal government won't do anything, then these governments should be permitted to decide, as a community and as a state, how they will approach the issue of illegal immigration.