Bruning, commission reach agreement on illegal immigrant cases

Anne Hobbs

LINCOLN, Neb. (Legal Newsline)-A long-running dispute between Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and the state commission charged with fighting discrimination reached an agreement Monday on how to handle cases involving illegal immigrants. The Memorandum of Understanding, yet to be approved by federal officials, would allow the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission get its own attorney-who would work at no cost to the state-to handle cases involving illegal immigrants. "I'll have to go to the Bar Association to see if there is somebody to work for free," Ann Hobbs, executive director of the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, told Legal Newsline. Among other things, the commission investigates fair housing complaints, alleged job discrimination and public accommodation cases. Hobbs said the commission has lost about $100,000 in funding for deferring cases to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which it would have otherwise investigated. In an earlier interview, Hobbs blamed Bruning's stance against illegal immigration for the loss. "Whenever people's personal opinions begin to trump state and federal law you can almost guarantee you're going to have a big mess," she said. The conflict between the commission and Bruning became public when the attorney general said the state should consider shutting down the commission entirely. He also said taxpayer money shouldn't be used to pursue a case on behalf of an illegal immigrant, even if there was a legitimate complaint. Since 2003, the commission referred 14 housing discrimination cases to the attorney general's office. Of those cases, Bruning's office filed four civil actions. Of the remaining 10, two were settled by the commission before the case was filed. The attorney general's office declined to file eight of the referrals, Brunings office said. From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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