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Respect for Law: At the Border and in Nebraska

Respect for Law: At the Border and in Nebraska

By Governor Pete Ricketts

May 18, 2021


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Through the years, the Good Life has been forged by pioneers and entrepreneurs in search of opportunities.  They put down roots and built welcoming communities that created great jobs for families looking to make a new start.  Along the way, Nebraska’s love and respect for law and order has made our state great.  Our state motto is “equality before the law” – and we live by this principle by fairly and consistently applying the law to everyone. 


Regrettably, forces at the national and state level are undermining our country’s and Nebraska’s work to uphold law and order regarding immigration.


If you’ve watched the news in the last couple of months, you have likely seen reporting about the immigration crisis on our border with Mexico.  This crisis was created by President Joe Biden’s actions to weaken our country’s immigration policies.  By watering down our country’s border protections, he has sent a message to Central American countries that the U.S. border is open.  In April, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made the fewest monthly deportations ever recorded, even as the number of illegal crossings at the border surged to its highest point in 20 years.  In March, there were about 16,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the border and about 14,000 in April.


The Biden-Harris Administration has done almost nothing to solve the problem they’ve created.  On March 24th, the President charged Vice President Kamala Harris to deal with the rush of migrants to our southern border.  Since then, she’s neither visited the border nor held a press conference to discuss her plans to resolve the problem.  This inaction has allowed the crisis to fester.     


Instead of addressing the crisis at the border, the Biden-Harris Administration has tried to send migrant children to the states.  Nebraska has declined a request from the Biden-Harris Administration to house migrant children in our state.  We are reserving our limited resources for serving our kids.  We do not want our kids harmed as the result of President Biden’s bad policies.  Nor do we have the appropriate resources for this migrant population.  As in the past, the Biden-Harris Administration should focus on working with Central American governments to reunite the children with their families in their home countries instead of pursuing the risky strategy of scattering them across the United States.  As I recently wrote in a letter along with other Governors to the President, “The cause of the border crisis is entirely due to reckless federal policy reversals executed within your first 100 days in office.” 


As the Biden-Harris Administration struggles to address a crisis of their own creation, State Senators are weighing legislation that would weaken state law barring illegal immigrants from accessing public benefits.  This week, the Nebraska Legislature voted to advance LB 298—a bill to extend unemployment benefits to illegal immigrants living in Nebraska.  The bill chips away at a state law enacted with overwhelming support in 2009 that bars illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-paid benefits.  State Senators should heed the lesson of the unfolding crisis on our nation’s border with Mexico.  It clearly shows what happens when immigration laws are watered down.  Nebraska has a vibrant legal immigrant population.  When the Legislature rewards illegal behavior they reduce the incentive to follow the law to come to our state.  When illegal immigrants cut in front of people who followed the rules to come here, people lose respect for the law and are emboldened to break it. 


Some have tried to argue that all workers regardless of immigration status deserve to participate in our unemployment system because they pay taxes on their wages.  This simply is not true.  Nebraska’s unemployment system is funded by taxes paid for by employers – not by workers.


Rather than weakening Nebraska’s laws, State Senators should advocate for Congress to fix our immigration system.  LB 298 would not only serve to undermine the rule of law, it would also be unfair to the permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and immigrants who have dutifully adhered to U.S. law.  I strongly urge the Legislature to reject this bad legislation.  You can contact your State Senator to let them know you support the rule of law in our country.  You can find contact information for your representative at


The story of Nebraska has been written by brave men and women who came to our state from around the world and found success through their grit and determination.  As we grow, we’ll continue to welcome people who have followed the rules to come to our state.  If you have questions about LB 298, or other legislative matters, please email or call 402-471-2244.