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This is my last legislative update of the session. Wednesday, April 20 was the final day of the 104th Legislative Session. We adjourned Sine Die (Latin for “without day”), meaning “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.” The last day of the second session of a biennium is more ceremonial in recent years because of term limits. It is not only a time to debate and vote on motions of gubernatorial overrides, but also for farewell speeches by term-limited senators. I, myself, will be term-limited in two years. There were 11 senators who said their goodbyes and bid the rest Godspeed. There are another 14 current members up for re-election, where three are unopposed. Next year, the Legislature will elect a new speaker, new committee chairmen, and could potentially welcome 22 new senators.
A motion was made to override the Governor’s veto of LB947. After two hours of debate, thirty-one senators voted to override the veto; thirteen, including me, voted to sustain the veto; five abstained from voting.
My opposition to LB947, and to uphold the Governor’s veto, is from the high regard I hold our immigration laws, especially as a daughter of Ukrainian, legal immigrants. Many others, sharing this same sentiment, called or emailed and referenced their ancestry and other generations of legal immigrants. As of 2013, exactly 123,182 legal immigrants made Nebraska their home, many with extended family waiting patiently to join them through the legal process. There are exactly 4,422,600 foreigners waiting to legally immigrate to the United States. The American Dream was not created through lawlessness, but through a just and stable law. The passage of LB947 sends the wrong message to individuals and families who, out of deference and fairness, abide by our laws and wait to enter our country legally.
Nebraska’s LB947 allows anyone who is work authorized to obtain a professional or commercial license. Many individuals who entered the United States illegally are now work authorized via President Obama’s expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. As of 2012, it is estimated there are approximately 55,000 illegal immigrants in Nebraska. President Obama’s expansion of DACA, and the implementation of DAPA, are what 26 states, including Nebraska, sued the Federal Government over. A Federal District Court judge in Texas initially blocked the program, and a federal appeals court ruled 2-1 in favor of the injunction. The Supreme Court will submit its opinion in June.
These two programs were implemented via executive orders and therefore can be undone via executive orders. To prevent such inconstant and impulsive lawmaking, America’s Founding Fathers divided authority. A foundational principle of the U.S. Constitution is separation of powers: laws are not passed by one person in this country, not even by one branch. If Congress, elected by the people, is deadlocked on an issue and chooses not to act, that does not give the President the authority to act independently. If the people elect divided government, then that is final until the next election. Either we will have rule of law and therefore a stable government, or we start down the road of anarchy. Unfortunately, our immigration predicaments are a result of a decades-long negligence of duty by the Federal Government to not secure our borders and enforce immigration laws.
LB947 puts Nebraska far beyond other states, even California and New York, in terms of issuing professional or commercial licenses to illegal immigrants of every profession. In Iowa, professional licensing boards issue commercial and professional licenses if a person issues a valid social security number. California offers professional or commercial licenses in over 50 professions to individuals, regardless of their immigration status. New York offers licenses for 53 different professions to only DACA recipients. Illinois and Florida allow DACA recipients to receive a license to practice law. Lastly, Nevada grants only a teaching license to DACA recipients. After the passage of LB947, Nebraska now grants professional or commercial licenses to any person – including those who are waiting to be approved for asylum – with work authorization for over 170 professions who might not have been educated in Nebraska or even our country.
Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol.