Proposed Ban Creates Uproar Among Latinos

Cindy Gonzalez, Southwest Iowa News (Council Bluffs), July 12, 2008

A proposed law aimed at banishing illegal immigrants from Fremont, Neb.—believed to be the first such city-sponsored initiative in the state—has sparked an outcry from a state agency that advocates for Latinos.

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Bob Warner, the longtime Fremont councilman who sponsored the proposal, said he did so because residents were “sick and tired” of what he said was the federal government’s lax enforcement of immigration laws.

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“I’ll fight to the dying end to do what they want,” Warner said. “I don’t know why everybody is making a mountain out of something that is very simple.”

Thursday, the Nebraska Mexican-American Commission issued a statement saying it was disappointed with “racial and anti-immigrant remarks” made Tuesday at a Fremont City Council meeting. Tuesday was the first opportunity for the public to speak about the ordinance.

Angel Freytez, commission spokesman, said some opponents of the ban left the meeting early because they felt there was inadequate security. One opponent of the ordinance later broke into tears because of the “hateful” statements, said Freytez, who called the behavior at the meeting “shameful.”

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Mary Marsh, another council member, said she did not sense uneasiness or feel there was a threatening atmosphere at the meeting.

“People expressed their opinions,” she said. “That is a given right in the United States of America.”

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The current draft does not include a ban on hiring, but Warner said he wants that included—along with penalties for renting to and harboring illegal immigrants.

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Fremont—with a population around 25,000, about 20 minutes west of Omaha—includes a Hormel Foods pork processing plant that relies on immigrant labor. Warner said he did not know how many illegal immigrants might be living in the city but said undocumented workers live all over the United States.

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Freytez said the Latino commission was deeply saddened by the events in Fremont. He urged community-based groups to “denounce racism and intolerance.”

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