Senators Override Ricketts On Professional Licenses For DACA Recipients
by Fred Knapp, Reporter/Producer, NET News
The Nebraska Legislature overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts veto Wednesday, voting to allow people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to get professional and occupational licenses in the state.
The debate unfolded on the last day of this year’s legislative session as a crowd of young people, some of them DACA recipients, looked down from the balcony. DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” a group granted lawful presence in the United States by President Barack Obama’s administration.
Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, lead sponsor of the bill, LB947, led off by excoriating the veto of the bill by Gov. Pete Ricketts, who said it undermined the rule of law. “We will be remembered by the tenor and the tone of what we’ve seen on LB947. We will be remembered, colleagues, of whether or not we’ve allowed the public debate in this state to hit a new low, to use fiction instead of fact, and to stall the opportunities – the God-given potential of residents of our state,” Mello said.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte defended the governor and his veto. “The attack by Sen. Mello on the governor was unwarranted. Talk about civility and then go on the attack. I will stand up for the governor. He believes (in) the rule of law,” Groene declared.
Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings supported overriding the governor, asking about some of the people who testified at a public hearing in support of the bill. “What about the young man who graduated from (the University of) Nebraska – right down the street here – in accounting? He got his bachelor’s degree. Then he went and got a master’s degree and now wants to sit for the CPA test, and we won’t let him,” Seiler said. “A master’s degree, and he can’t sit for the CPA exam because of the quote ‘rule of law?’ That’s bogus!”
Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion urged senators to uphold the veto. Kintner suggested the bill would apply not only to an estimated 4,000 DACA recipients in the state, but another 14,000 so-called DAPA recipients. DAPA, or “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans,” applies to foreign parents of children who are American citizens. Their status is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha supported the override. Chambers said opponents were trying to punish children for the actions of their parents. He suggested they were using a double standard. “As black people, when we have demanded reparations for the unrequited labor that our ancestors gave to build this country – the loss of our freedom, our dignity, our personhood — we are met with the argument that ‘That was then. They were the slaveholders. We are not slaveholders,’” Chambers said. “But now you’re saying that these children are to be punished for something their parents did. You’re morality is elastic.”
Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha urged support for the veto, saying the state should not have to confront the issue of benefits for people just because the federal government has failed to act. “It may be prenatal care one year, in-state tuition another year, drivers licenses another session, or this session professional licenses. And the list will go on and on until the federal government decides to take this issue on,” McCoy said.
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln supported the override, saying the bill, LB947, helps people who are here and wanting to work. “Colleagues, this is not an amnesty bill. This gives no one legal status, because they are already legally here. They have a legal status to be here. Nothing in 947 changes that,” Coash said.
After several hours of debate, senators overrode the governor’s veto. The vote was 31-13, giving the measure one more vote than was needed. As Clerk of the Legislature Patrick O’Donnell announced the result and Lieutenant Gov. Mike Foley affirmed it, young people watching from the balcony erupted in applause, with senators who supported them returning the gesture from below.
The law takes effect immediately.
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