The final tally from Fremont’s special election for Ordinance 5165 was 3,906 in favor and 2,908 against. On Monday, the infamous immigration ordinance passed.
For 12 hours, Fremont voters cast their ballots at 20 precinct polling locations. Another 476 votes were cast by absentee ballot.
The morning was characterized by overcast skies, light voter traffic, and regular police visits. Early voters were reluctant to speak on camera. One even demanded a police office escort me off the premises (the officer politely reminded the older gentleman that he could not legally do that as I was breaking no laws).
By lunchtime the sky was clear and the polls were getting busy. Residents were warming up to interviews and fewer police appeared to be on patrol.
As dinner time rolled around, attendance slowed to a crawl. Only a handful of cars pulled into the Evangelical Free Church at Precinct 1A. The kids selling Kool-Aid across the street had slashed prices to 25 cents and finally closed up shop by 7pm.
Of the 20 physical precincts, Bold Nebraska visited 13 to get voter reactions.
Residents’ motives for voting fell into two camps. Some cited their civic duty while others stressed the importance of immigration as a political issue.
Most did not feel comfortable sharing their vote outright on camera. Some mentioned the inaction of the federal government while others felt the ordinance encouraged discrimination. One voter shared that even after casting her ballot she felt conflicted between encouraging the American dream and enforcing immigration laws.
The polls closed promptly at 8pm, and by 9:15 the Dodge County Clerk posted the final tally for the immigration ordinance. The longest day in Fremont was over.
But the battle over immigration and Fremont is far from complete. Just as it took 2 years to get Ordinance 5165 to a special election, the fallout from Monday will play out in the courts.
Before Fremont even voted, the Nebraska ACLU clearly stated their intentions of filing a lawsuit if the city passed the ordinance. The branch Executive Director Laurel Marsh says pending a July vote from the state ACLU board, they will bring action against Fremont. The suit would be on the grounds of violating the supremacy clause and the 14th amendment.
Fremont State Senator Charlie Janssen, a Republican, has been emboldened in his threat to bring an immigration bill to the state legislature this session that would be similar to the controversial Arizona law.
Fremont’s new ordinance and Janssen’s ladder climbing amount to big costs for hard working Nebraskans. Not only legal costs from lawsuits, but social and economic costs as well. This ordinance and Senator Janssen’s political ambitions drive a wedge between good people.
The frustrations that Fremonters feel with the federal government are not without merit. Our immigration system is broken. But the solution should not be a patchwork of laws varying from city to city or state to state.
Immigration is the jurisdiction of the federal government and that is where solutions must be sought. If Janssen and Governor Heineman really want reform they should lean on our federal delegation: Fortenberry, Terry, Smith, Johanns, and Nelson instead of watching a city alienate its citizens from each other.
Because while this country may be built around a patchwork of races, ethnicities, religions and genders, our immigration system needs complete and comprehensive federal reform.