Supreme Court leaves undocumented-immigrant housing ban intact

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to say whether states and cities can bar landlords from renting to undocumented aliens, leaving intact a lower court disagreement and steering clear of the national debate over illegal immigration.

The justices on Monday, without comment, turned away a challenge to a Fremont, Nebraska, anti-harboring law, which civil rights advocates said conflicts with federal immigration measures. A St. Louis-based federal appeals court upheld the law, putting it at odds with appellate courts that have considered similar measures elsewhere.

The Supreme Court previously put limits on what states and local governments can do to crack down on illegal immigration. In 2012, the justices voided parts of an Arizona immigration law, including criminal provisions that would have barred people from being in the state without proper documentation.

Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly sidestepped the issue of anti-harboring laws. In March the court rejected appeals raising almost identical issues, filed by towns in Pennsylvania and Texas, and in April the justices turned away an appeal by Arizona on its anti-harboring law.

Fremont, a town of 26,000 outside Omaha, adopted the measure through a 2010 ballot initiative. Under the law, all prospective tenants must apply for an occupancy license, and non-citizens must include information about their immigration status.

The Fremont Police Department then submits that information to federal immigration officials. If the federal government reports that the applicant isn’t lawfully present in the U.S., officials revoke the occupancy license. Violators can be fined $100.

A landlord and two tenants represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund were challenging the measure.

The case is Keller v. City of Fremont, 13-1043.

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