Town bans hiring of illegal immigrants

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The eastern Nebraska city of Fremont will likely join Arizona at the centre of an American national debate about immigration regulations after voters approved a ban on hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union already has promised to file a lawsuit to block enforcement of the proposal that roughly 57 per cent of Fremont voters supported on Monday. The challenge could keep the measure from taking effect.

"In a community of 25,000, it's going to be hard to take on the whole country, and it will be costly to do so," said Fremont City Councilman Scott Getzschman, who opposed the measure but said city leaders would support the results.

Fremont's vote is the latest chapter in the tumult over illegal immigration across the United States, including a recently passed Arizona law that will require police investigating another incident or crime to ask people about their immigration status if there's a "reasonable suspicion" they're in the country illegally.

The city, which is about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, has watched as its Hispanic population surged in the past two decades, largely due to the jobs available at the nearby Fremont Beef and Hormel meatpacking plants.

Supporters argued the measure is needed to make up for what they see as lax federal law enforcement. Opponents said it could fuel discrimination.