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An Unfair and Unjust Law

By Governor Pete Ricketts

May 3, 2016

 

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In my column a few weeks ago, I outlined why LB947, a bill which grants professional licenses to individuals who came to Nebraska illegally, would send the wrong message to immigrants in our state who followed the law to make their home here.  Policies like this one signal that legal immigrants need not spend the time, effort, or money to follow our country’s laws when coming to our state.

 

Since I last wrote about LB947, the Legislature voted to override my veto of this legislation.  Throughout the legislative process, numerous politicians, lobbyists, and special interests shared very compelling anecdotes in their pleas to garner support for this legislation.  While I certainly sympathize with some of the difficult situations, Nebraska cannot become a state that uses the ends to justify the means.  Cultivating respect for the law provides a strong foundation for growing our state, and it is one of the principles that has made Nebraska the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family.

 

Before the Legislature voted to make LB947 law in spite of my objections, two Nebraskans, who immigrated legally and hold professional licenses, joined me at a news conference announcing my veto of the bill.  Both Eser Graham-Marski and Lawrence Asare-Danquah shared their stories about their journey to Nebraska and about why they oppose LB947.

 

Eser Graham-Marski of Chadron came to Nebraska from Brazil on a student visa.  He currently works as a physical therapist at the Chadron Community Hospital.  He just became a U.S. citizen after nearly 17 years of navigating our legal immigration system.  At the news conference Eser said, “[f]ollowing the law to enter the United States requires time, patience, and effort.  Granting licenses that give access to jobs to people who came to Nebraska illegally sends the wrong message to hardworking people who want to follow the law.  It would be unjust to law-abiding citizens for the Legislature to grant these privileges to those who broke the law.”

 

Lawrence Asare-Danquah of Omaha came from Ghana on a student visa in 2002.  After receiving his degree from Midland University, he became a U.S. Citizen in 2010.  He currently works as a nurse at Nebraska Medicine.  Lawrence said, “Nebraska is my home, and I am currently working to bring other family members here through the legal process.  My family has made the effort to follow the legal immigration process, and allowing others who came to Nebraska outside the legal process to receive professional licenses is unfair.”

 

Stories like these are why I was compelled to veto LB947.  By overriding my veto, senators in the Legislature are telling Nebraskans like Eser and Lawrence who followed the law that their time, effort, and financial investment in following our legal immigration system are meaningless. 

 

Proponents of LB947 held up the youthfulness of a specific group of young immigrants as a justification for the bill, saying that comparing legal immigrants to young people brought to our state by their parents is unfair.  This is misleading.  First, LB947 covers a much broader group of individuals beyond those who received the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) designation.  DACA youth are young adults who came to the United States illegally, who have received temporary legal presence from the Obama Administration.  LB947 gives professional licenses to individuals with a pending application for asylum as well as a pending application for temporary protected status.  None of these groups have an immigration status that allow them to remain in our state for the long term.  In fact, the DACA designation for the young adults is set to expire in 2018.

 

Second, just a few weeks ago the Supreme Court heard a case, which the State of Nebraska is litigating, against the Obama Administration, which could potentially give more individuals, who came to Nebraska illegally, access to professional licenses.  This case challenges the Obama Administration’s attempt to give temporary legal presence to the parents of the DACA youth.  While I am sympathetic to the youth brought here illegally, the parents who crossed the border clearly broke the law.  If the Supreme Court rules the President can go forward, this truly is amnesty.  When the President tried to unilaterally act, his plan was put on hold by the lower courts.  The bill passed into law by the Legislature would automatically give access to these licenses to the parents of the DACA youth if the Supreme Court decides to uphold the Obama Administration’s amnesty plan.

 

LB947 is not only unfair and unjust to Nebraskans who followed the law to come here, but it also makes sweeping changes, which give immigrants, who may only be here temporarily, access to our licensed professions.  Nebraska could have avoided these pitfalls if the Legislature had voted to sustain my veto of LB947.  As I travel the state, Nebraskans tell me they oppose giving individuals, who came to our state illegally, access to public benefits.  Staying true to the values that helped make our state the Good Life will help our state continue to grow by attracting people like Eser and Lawrence. 

 

While 31 senators voted to override my veto of LB947, there were 18 senators who stood with Nebraskans and for the rule of law.  The senators who did not vote to override my veto of LB947 are Senators Bloomfield, Brasch, Craighead, Davis, Fox, Friesen, Groene, Hughes, Johnson, Kintner, Kolterman, Kuehn, Larson, McCoy, Murante, Riepe, Schnoor, and Watermeier.  Please consider calling them to express your gratitude for their vote.  You can find their information at www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.

 

Over the summer and fall, I will be working with agencies and my team to develop the next budget and new initiatives.  If you’d like to share your thoughts on this bill or other proposals that were considered during this legislative session, I hope you will take the time to contact my office at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

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