Lawmakers override veto; professional licenses approved for young immigrants

A governor’s veto of a bill that would make additional Nebraskans eligible for professional licensure was overridden by the Legislature April 20. Lawmakers voted 31-13 to override the veto. Thirty votes were needed.

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, LB947 allows Nebraska residents who are covered by the federal Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to apply for professional or commercial licenses in order to practice their professions. Eligible residents can apply for credentials under the Uniform Credentialing Act.

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.

Senators had passed the bill April 13 on a 33-11 vote, but Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed it April 15.

In his veto message to the Legislature, Ricketts said the bill is premature and exacerbates the uncertain future of DACA program recipients if their status were to be revoked.

“LB947 is an affront to the individuals who are observing our laws and navigating proper immigration channels to obtain jobs and legal status,” he wrote. “The enactment of this bill would unjustly allow individuals who are here illegally to be ahead of those who have been waiting years to be granted a proper permanent or legal status in our country.”

Mello offered a motion the last day of the session to override the governor’s veto, saying that DACA residents have been educated and trained in the state and should now be allowed to work in the state.

“We run for office to make a difference, to improve our communities, to strengthen our economy and to give people a better shot at the American dream,” he said. “That is what we’re doing with LB947.”

Mello said the bill received no opposition testimony during its Feb. 11 committee hearing and was supported by a broad coalition including the Omaha and Lincoln chambers of commerce and the Nebraska Cattlemen.

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks supported the override motion. She said DACA residents are a great asset to the state.

“We’re spending millions of dollars to attract people to Nebraska to work and make our economy vibrant,” she said, adding that LB947 will address crucial shortages in the state’s workforce. “We are talking about the strength of our economy, our state and our moral fiber.”

Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln also supported the motion.

“We have a heritage of cultural diversity that our state is founded upon,” Campbell said. “Please do not deny these people the opportunity to be a part of that heritage.”

Opposing the motion, Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy said the country has a broken federal immigration system and it is not the state Legislature’s responsibility to address it.

“We are not encouraging the federal government to address the situation [if we override] the governor today,” McCoy said. “It only makes it easier for Congress to do nothing when state legislatures act as we’re being encouraged to act today.”

To qualify for the federal DACA 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.

Any professional license granted under the bill will be rescinded if a person’s lawful status is rescinded. LB947 also ensures that recipients are ineligible for public benefits other than a professional license.

Bookmark and Share