The mandatory E-Verify checks have been implemented in this town of 26,000 some 30 miles northwest of Omaha. But the part of the law that requires renters to prove their legal status and obtain a police permit was suspended pending a court challenge.
Similar housing ordinances in Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa., have been struck down by the courts in recent years. But on Oct. 24 of this year, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law here. At the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, however, legislators voted to hold another referendum Feb. 11 to decide whether to repeal it.
“This ordinance has got to go,” resident Don Bowen told the council. “I rent an apartment here. It isn’t just about immigrants. It even makes me a second-class citizen.”
“We, the people, have spoken. You have no right to change this,” said resident John Wiegert, who campaigned for the discriminatory bill.
High school student Jose Rodriguez spoke for repeal and against “a system where Latino immigrants are perpetual foreigners.” But, he said, “everyone should know by now we are here to stay.”
“This law is an attack, not only against working people who have immigrated here, but against all workers,” said Rebecca Williamson, of the Socialist Workers Party. “I worked for more than eight years in meatpacking plants where bosses try to pit us against each other and convince those of us who are native-born that immigrants are the source of our problems. But it’s the employers who use discrimination and the second-class status of fellow workers to go after our unions and push down wages and working conditions of us all.”
“It isn’t just about housing,” Jennifer Lopez, a high school student who came to the meeting, told the Militant. “I have been stopped by the police while driving in town. Stopped for no reason and asked for my identification. So has my boyfriend, and my brother. Just because we have brown skin.”
“We have to stand up for our rights,” she said.
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