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Nebraska town can bar housing to illegal immigrants, court rules

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A Nebraska town can prohibit landlords and employers from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit said an ordinance by the town of Fremont, Nebraska, does not discriminate against Latinos and is not contrary to federal immigration and housing laws.

The three-judge panel said in its ruling the ordinance does not have an "impermissible effect by removing a class of aliens from the city" or intrude on federal immigration and anti-harboring laws.

The court also ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing.

In June 2010, residents in Fremont, a city of 26,000 about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, approved the ordinance through referendum. Supporters said the measure was needed to compensate for a lack of federal law enforcement of immigration violations, while opponents said the law could fuel discrimination.

The ordinance requires potential renters to apply for a license, and through the application process Fremont officials can check to see if the prospective renters have legal status.

The ordinance also requires employers to use E-Verify, a system to check whether potential employees have legal status to work in the United States.

Two groups of landlords, renters and employers filed lawsuits in federal court claiming the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates federal and state law.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled in 2012 that the ordinance infringed on federal law.

The office of Harvey Levine, the city attorney in Fremont, would not comment until Levine reviewed the ruling. An attorney for the plaintiffs was not immediately available for comment.

The ruling comes a day after the U.S. Senate approved a landmark immigration bill that would provide millions of illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens. But the bill is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives, according to House Speaker John Boehner.

(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune and Leslie Adler)

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