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Nebraska City Keeps Rules Targeting Undocumented Immigrants

<p>Voters opted to keep ordinance requiring proof of status for renting.</p>
State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, third left, Jeremy Jensen, center, and John Wiegert, second right, celebrate in Fremont, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, after city voters have decided by voting no, to uphold the law designed to bar immigrants from renting homes if they don’t have legal permission to be in the U.S.
State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, third left, Jeremy Jensen, center, and John Wiegert, second right, celebrate in Fremont, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, after city voters have decided by voting no, to uphold the law designed to bar immigrants from renting homes if they don’t have legal permission to be in the U.S. Nati Harnik / AP

The city of Fremont, Nebraska voted to keep an ordinance that requires all renters to swear they have legal permission to live in the U.S.

Nearly 60 percent of Fremont voters decided Tuesday to keep an ordinance. Voters first approved the rules by a smaller margin in 2010. Critics pushed for the new vote, saying the housing restrictions would be ineffective and might cost Fremont millions of dollars in legal fees and lost federal grants. They also said it was hurting the city's image.

Supporters insist the measure does not target Hispanics, but the topic can make for awkward conversation given Fremont's growing immigrant population. The number of Hispanics jumped from 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000 and 3,149 in 2010, mostly because of jobs at the nearby Hormel and Fremont Beef plants.

The housing rules require anyone who rents a home or apartment to apply for a $5 permit and attest to their legal status, but there is no mandate to show proof. New permits are needed for every move, and landlords are required to make sure their tenants have permits or face a $100 fine.

It's not clear how many people live in Fremont illegally. Census figures show 1,150 noncitizens live in the town, including immigrants who don't have permission to be in the U.S. and lawful permanent residents, foreign students and refugees who are legally in the country.

-Reporting by the Associated Press