OMAHA (AP) — Fremont officials continue to work out how to implement an ordinance requiring businesses to double-check the citizenship of new employees.
City Attorney Paul Payne told the City Council at its Tuesday meeting that he's obligated to begin enforcing the requirement May 4, but he's still trying to determine what resources are needed and what the enforcement process should entail.
"We don't have a lot of guides out there to take a look at this and to look at other communities, because I've looked and I don't see a whole lot of them actually enforcing," Payne said.
The requirement that employers use the E-Verify system to screen for illegal immigrants is part of an ordinance approved by Fremont voters in June 2010 but put on hold until now so that lawsuits challenging it could be heard.
A federal judge approved most of the ordinance in February, but rejected one part of the rules requiring potential renters to swear they are legal residents and pay $5 to obtain a renting permit. So, those housing rules remain on hold while the city and American Civil Liberties Union appeal.
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City officials have estimated it will cost about $450,000 in the first year to put the new regulations in place because new forms will have to be developed and new employees will be needed to make sure businesses are using the citizenship checks.
Payne told the City Council that he anticipates starting enforcement by sending letters to Fremont businesses asking them to comply with the ordinance and provide proof of E-Verify registration, according to the Fremont Tribune. Stronger-worded letters or face-to-face meetings could follow for businesses that don't comply, with prosecution for employers who refuse to conform to the new law.
City Administrator Dale Shotkoski cautioned that Payne has other duties as city attorney and shouldn't tie up all his time with the ordinance.
"This is one ordinance," he said. "There are a whole bunch of them out there. There are also contracts he reviews and a lot of other things he's doing for us, so we can't have him spending 90 percent of his time on the ordinance, then we aren't getting the benefit of having a city attorney."
Census figures show that the Hispanic population in Fremont has grown tremendously over the past two decades, but it's not clear how many illegal immigrants might live in the city of 26,000 about 35 miles northwest of Omaha.
Fremont's Hispanic population grew from 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000 and 3,149 in 2010. Census figures show that 1,259 noncitizens live there, but that figure includes illegal immigrants as well as lawful permanent residents, foreign students and refugees in the U.S. legally.
Information from: Fremont Tribune