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Nebraska city of Fremont struggles to enforce occupancy rules aimed at immigration concerns

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FREMONT, Nebraska — A Nebraska city's ordinance that bans renting homes to immigrants living in the country illegally is having little effect because Fremont officials haven't been able to determine applicants' citizenship status.

The Omaha World-Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1D9v2Zw ) the federal government is refusing to provide information about an individual's immigration status because Fremont doesn't collect enough information.

So Fremont officials haven't revoked any rental permits since the city of about 26,000 started enforcing the ordinance last year. Voters originally passed the ordinance in 2010, but its enforcement was delayed while lawsuits were resolved.

Mayor Scott Getzschman said the city is working to address the problem without amending the ordinance.

"We are following the letter of the law and doing what we have to do," he said. "The only thing not being done is verification."

The rules require Fremont residents to pay $5 and swear they have legal permission to live in the United States. Landlords are prohibited from renting to anyone without a permit.

People who say they aren't U.S. citizens have their information submitted to a federal database for review. At least 35 people have said they aren't citizens in the past year.

Fremont's form collects only basic identifying information. Getzschman said federal officials have said the city doesn't collect enough to determine citizenship.

"Our form doesn't require a Social Security number or driver's license number," Getzschman said. "There's no additional documentation. That's why the verification process is not being used."

Supporters of the ordinance were surprised to hear about this latest setback. John Wiegert of Fremont said he thought the ordinance had been quietly working since roughly 60 percent of the city's voters decided to keep it last year.

"I've not heard anyone complain," he said. "My job was to get out the vote, and then I was done with it."

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.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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