The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to a Nebraska city’s ban on renting residential dwellings to undocumented immigrants.
The justices on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that found the ordinance doesn't discriminate against Latinos or interfere with federal immigration laws.
The case challenged a 2010 ordinance approved by Fremont, Nebraska, voters requiring potential renters to pay a $5 fee for an occupancy license and show proof of being in the country legally.
Earlier this year, the justices declined attempts by two other towns — in Pennsylvania and Texas — to revive similar laws that had been struck down by lower courts. The high court has held since 2012 that immigration issues are largely a matter for federal agencies, not local governments, to regulate.
“It's final now, and Fremont's victory is complete,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped create the ordinance and has been in involved in court battles over the measure told the Omaha World-Herald.
Earlier this year, nearly 60 percent of voters in the conservative city of about 26,000 again backed the housing restrictions that require renters to swear they have legal permission to live in the United States and prohibit landlords from renting to anyone without a city permit.
The housing restrictions had been on hold while lawsuits challenging them worked their way through the courts, and the City Council gave voters a chance to reconsider it in February.
The Supreme Court remained the only body that could have scrapped the ban.
The civil rights groups that challenged Fremont's immigration ordinance in court, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, asked the nation's high court to evaluate the appeals court ruling that upheld it. And the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska had vowed to watch implementation of the rental rules closely for examples of discrimination that might be grounds for a new lawsuit.
Critics say the immigration restrictions are ineffective and might cost Fremont millions of dollars in legal fees and lost federal grants. They also believe the ordinance has hurt the image of Fremont, which is about 30 miles northwest of Omaha.
Most other cities that have tried to restrict illegal immigration — including Hazelton, Pa., and Farmers Branch, Texas — have wound up mired in costly court battles.
It's difficult to determine how many people live in Fremont illegally. According to census figures, the town is home to 1,150 noncitizens. That figure includes immigrants who do not have permission to be in the U.S., as well as lawful permanent residents, foreign students and refugees who are legally in the U.S.
If a landlord continues to allow a renter without a license to stay, the landlord could be fined $100. The ordinance doesn't specify any penalties for renters.
Another section of Fremont's immigration ordinance that requires employers to use a federal online system to check whether prospective employees are permitted to work in the U.S. has been in place since 2012. Many larger employers, including the major meatpacking plants just outside Fremont, were already using that federal E-Verify system before the ordinance was adopted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.