Nebraska City’s Defense of Anti- Immigrant Law May Cause Tax Hike

This coming Aug. 31, the Fremont, Neb., City Council will consider hiking property taxes to pay to defend its recently passed anti-immigrant law. Two civil rights organizations have challenged the law, saying the voter-approved ordinance amounts to discrimination. The law, which bans the housing and hiring of undocumented immigrants in the town of 25,000 residents, is currently tied up in federal court.

City Administrator Robert Hartwig told the Omaha World-Herald that the council most likely will not vote on the proposed 18% increase in the city's portion of the property tax rate until Sept. 14. If approved, the owner of a $200,000 house would pay about $116 more in taxes next year.

Fremont’s law was suggested to the community by Kris Kobach, a lawyer who works at the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an anti-immigrant hate group. Kobach, who has worked for FAIR for several years primarily proposing anti-immigrant laws similar to Fremont’s for smaller communities, has held GOP posts in his home state of Kansas and has taught at the University of Missouri, Kansas City's law school.

Kobach tends to wreak financial havoc wherever he goes. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last month set up a legal defense fund in that state to defend SB 1070, a harsh and highly controversial anti-immigrant law written by Kobach that was passed by Arizona’s legislature and signed by Brewer earlier this year. In late July, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction that put on hold key parts of the law that would have required police to check the immigration status of individuals they suspected of being undocumented.

Interestingly, SB 1070 includes a clause providing financial benefits to lawyers who defend immigration-restriction laws. Article 8 reads, "a person may bring an action in superior court to challenge any official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state that adopts or implements a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law," and that "if there is a judicial finding that an entity has violated this section, the court shall order ... that the person who brought the action recover court costs and attorney fees."

Arizona isn’t the only place scrambling for funds to cover legal costs associated with anti-immigrant laws designed by Kobach. In fact, Kobach’s track record is disastrous. Not only have his laws raised tensions between Latinos and others in the communities where they have been enacted, but they have also caused millions of dollars in legal costs. According to Media Matters, Kobach has run up over $6.6 million in legal fees that small communities are responsible for paying. Those costs have included: $2,400,000 in Hazelton, Penn.; $4,000,000 in Farmer’s Branch, Texas; $270,000 in Valley Park, Mo.; and $12,600, plus expenses, in Maricopa County, Ariz.

Although Kobach has reportedly agreed to represent Fremont at a reduced cost, administrators anticipate other expenses related to the lawsuits. Hartwig said those costs include travel and lodging fees for Kobach, as well as outside assistance such as expert witnesses and support personnel.