The following editorial first appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star.
Many years ago, acerbic Baltimore Sun columnist H.L. Mencken wrote, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
That phrase comes to mind as we contemplate the mistake that voters in Fremont made in voting for the second time for an ordinance that attempts a local crackdown on illegal immigration.
Residents of Fremont have yet to feel the full impact of the law approved for the first time in 2010, because the law has been tied up in court, and responsible city leaders have dragged their feet on implementing the portion of the law that tries to ban illegal immigrants from living in the town.
Another portion of the law requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that workers are in the United States legally has already gone into effect.
Fremont city officials said they will begin enforcing the housing provisions 30 days after the election results are certified.
That means that in Fremont all renters will have to go to the Fremont Police Department to get an “occupancy license” at a cost of $5. If a renter identifies themselves as anything other than a U.S. citizen or national, the Police Department will turn to the federal government to ascertain whether they are in the country lawfully. If the federal government determines that the renter is in the country illegally, the occupancy permit will be revoked.
In 1990, there were only 165 Hispanics in Fremont. But Hispanic workers were attracted by jobs in the Hormel and Fremont Beef plants near city limits. By 2010, there were 3,149 Hispanic residents.
Locally, opinions differ on what the impact of the law will be. There’s no doubt, however, that Fremont residents with Mexican ancestry are distressed. Mayra Gonzalez, who runs a downtown bakery, told the Journal Star that she likes the town, "but my family, they won’t come here, because they say, ‘Oh, no. there will be racists.'”
As the Journal Star editorial board has said repeatedly, the best and only real solution to America’s dysfunctional immigration system must come from Congress.
The emotional wave that provoked laws like the one enacted by Fremont has more or less subsided at the national level.
History eventually will regard Fremont’s Ordinance 5165 as an odd and disreputable piece of legislation. It’s only a matter of time, we predict, before it’s wiped off the books.
But in Fremont it’s now the law. Disappointing as the election results might be to the town leaders who put the ordinance up to a second vote, it’s time to put the law into effect. The people have spoken.