Debating legality in Fremont, Nebraska : migrant political participation and the growing trend of local immigration enforcement
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This research uses Fremont, Nebraska, and City Ordinance 5165, passed in June of 2010, as a case study to explore the effects on migrant political activity of local legislation that prevents undocumented migrants from renting homes and acquiring jobs, and also investigates the nature of migrant participation in opposing such measures. Fremont is one of many U.S. cities that have passed ordinances targeting undocumented migrants, and while continuous legal battles have delayed these laws from going into effect, they reflect a growing attempt to undertake immigration enforcement at a local level. Interviews with Fremont community members suggest the effects of the passage of Ordinance 5165 and surrounding debate are primarily negative, including community division, increased racism, and a challenged sense of safety and belonging for many residents. However, the legislation has also had some positive influence, such as motivating higher levels of civic engagement among migrants and Latinos, and spurring mobilization efforts that have served as points of solidarity and empowerment for these same groups. Furthermore, because places are formed by way of their relations to other places, fieldwork was also conducted in Chichihualco, Guerrero, Mexico one of the largest sending communities to Fremont. These complementary findings exposed how global realities, such as economic need and transnational social ties, shaped happenings in Fremont; and interviews with return migrants and migrants' family members in Chichihualco suggest that it is unlikely the law will deter migration to the city nor persuade migrants to relocate or return to their countries of origin. The Fremont case study provides insight concerning the nationwide trend of local immigration enforcement, highlighting the need for continued investigation of the ways in which community members are organizing against such policy measures, and the observed and potential effects for various actors at different scales. This sort of legislation is being passed with greater frequency in the U.S., and this research argues that its effects have been overwhelmingly negative, and that such laws represent a missed opportunity to instead integrate growing migrant populations into city planning and development processes that could be beneficial for entire communities.