Activists fighting to keep a draconian anti-immigrant ordinance in a Nebraska town reportedly have called in the big guns: the Nativist group FAIR.
In 2010, voters in Fremont, Nebraska passed an ordinance barring landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants and requiring employers to check new employee’s immigration status. (The employment provision exempted the town’s largest employers, two meatpacking plants just outside of city limits.) Behind the law was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has made a name for himself by peddling anti-immigrant and voter suppression measures to communities across the country.
Last summer, a federal appeals court upheld the law but a city councilmember has introduced a ballot referendum to repeal parts of it. This has angered proponents of the law, who have set up a group called “Our Vote Should Count” and gathered support from the national nativist group FAIR (a former Kobach employer), according to the Fremont Tribune :
Our Vote Should Count enlisted the help of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Tea Party Patriots, True The Vote, and other national organizations, including a Washington, D.C.-based analyst and an Omaha media consultant, to put together a media campaign that will use social media, print media, flyers and canvassing to get out their message.
UPDATE: The Fremont Tribune reported that the group True the Vote was involved in the Fremont initiative. True the Vote tells us that they had no involvement in the measure and are seeking a retraction from the Tribune. We have removed True the Vote from our our story.
UPDATE 2: The Fremont Tribune reports that Our Vote Should Count was in contact with local organizers at FAIR and True the Vote, which may not have come to the attention of the national groups:
“In assembling facts and data,” Von Behren replied in an email to the Tribune, “we met individually with representatives of Tea Party Patriots, True The Vote and (the Federation for American Immigration Reform). Each provided varying levels of support, including data access, technical support, data analysis and general knowledge of the issues from their experience. It's correct that the national office of True The Vote may not have known about local conversations. I would expect the same of (Tea Party Patriots) or FAIR.
“The information provided was all publicly available, but much easier to find with help from someone who works in that area. Neither of the other two organizations raised a concern so we assumed that was the normal function of a local representative,” Von Behren wrote.
Supporters of the Fremont ordinance don’t exactly hide that they are motivated by suspicion of the town’s growing Hispanic population – whether documented or not. One Vote Should count shared this graphic on its Facebook page, which warns that “Fremont is a sanctuary city” because its “Hispanic population TRIPLED! in 10 years”:
In November, Harpers author Ted Genoways visited a town meeting about the ordinance and found racial tensions running high, as one woman railed against “Spanish in my schools” and a Latina resident, a third-generation American, recalled a man screaming at her to “go back to Mexico.”
An Our Vote Should Count spokesman, after warning of the increase in the “non-white population” in local schools, told the Fremont Tribune that the real racists were undocumented immigrants:
Enforcing the ordinance is not about targeting a race, he said.
“There are two levels of racism here. One is a set of racists who will use illegal people for their own profit, and that is being done actively. The other racism is people who knowingly break the law to come here for their own profit,” he said.