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We all know our immigration system is broken. Who knows when or if it will ever be properly repaired. Our president, through an administrative memorandum, did allow some unauthorized immigrants to lawfully work through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This is a defined population that consists of young people most of whom were brought here by their parents. Many of them are working toward becoming citizens.
These young people have been in our public schools and colleges. As a result of the DACA program, these young people are given lawful presence and employment authorization, which means they can work legally and pay taxes on those earnings. If these young people go into careers that require state licensure, our state currently denies them licenses based on their immigration status.
What LB947 did was allow these young people who have the necessary skills and education to at least apply for a license or certification.
A recurring theme I have heard from businesses is they have difficulty finding employees. That is why our Chambers of Commerce, the Nebraska Cattleman’s Association, and even Mayor Stothert, believe that we need to increase and improve our employee base.
If LB947 becomes law, these young people can be licensed as stylists, teachers, CPA’s, pharmacy techs, or any other profession for which they are qualified that requires state licensure (more than 170 different careers). If these young people chose to go into any one of these careers, and we don’t grant them licenses, they must leave our state to find gainful employment in their profession. It makes sense to me that if we are going to grant them lawful presence and allow them to work, then we should allow them to work in careers that will let them earn more and generate more tax dollars. Even more importantly, not utilizing them to their full potential is a waste of human capital. This will allow many of them to work at jobs that offer health care benefits. They can begin to save for retirement and they will generate more spending capital in Nebraska.
An amendment was added on Select File which specifically clarifies that no public benefits other than commercial or professional licensure will be extended to such immigrants. The measure also specifies that if they lose their authorization to work because the DACA program is terminated, their licenses will be revoked – our state closely monitors these licenses and most need to be renewed annually or bi-annually.
I believe Emily Nohr’s article in the OWH covers the issue well.