Lawmakers override veto; young immigrant driver’s licenses approved

Qualifying young immigrants can be permitted to drive in Nebraska following a successful veto override May 28.

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, LB623 allows Nebraska residents of driving age who are covered by the federal Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to secure a driver’s license or state identification card.

Senators passed the bill May 21 on a 34-9 vote, but Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed it May 27.

In his veto message to the Legislature, Ricketts said the bill would grant too many illegal immigrants privileges. Under LB623, Ricketts said, any immigrant with approved deferred action status could be issued a driver’s licenses and state identification card.

“The bill is wrong on principle and the bill is overly broad,” Ricketts wrote.

Nordquist offered a motion to override the governor’s veto, saying that pending federal programs to extend deferred status to adult illegal immigrants will be litigated for years.

“It is extremely unlikely it will move forward,” Nordquist said, adding that the only people who will be affected by the bill are current DACA recipients.

“There are thousands of bright, young, educated immigrant youth in our state who are in need of the legal right to drive,” Nordquist said. “It’s time to remove a barrier to the success of these kids and also the success of our economy and our community.”

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte agreed with the governor’s assessment of the bill, saying that it would give driving privileges to all of the state’s illegal immigrants with deferred status. If the measure was narrowed to benefit only DACA recipients, Groene said, he would support it.

“Let’s come back with an accurate bill,” Groene said. “Let’s see what the courts do and let’s do it right.”

Hastings Sen. Les Seiler supported the motion to override the veto. Denying driver’s licenses to young immigrants who have become doctors and lawyers in Nebraska creates an absurd and embarrassing situation, he said.

“You mean to tell me we will authorize a license to a person to practice medicine in the state of Nebraska but they can’t drive a car?” Seiler said. “What kind of mentality is that?”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the DACA program is designed to protect from deportation individuals who were brought into the country illegally as children. Those who meet DACA guidelines are eligible for a work permit and may request deferred action for two years, subject to renewal.

To qualify for the program residents must have:
• lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007;
• been no older than 31 as of June 15, 2012;
• entered the country prior to their 16th birthday;
• attended school, earned a diploma or general education certificate or been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces; and
• not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanors.

Under LB623, DACA recipients will be required to relinquish a state driver’s license or identification card if their lawful status is revoked by the federal government.

Lawmakers voted 34-10 to override the governor’s veto. Thirty votes were needed.

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