Bill would require immigration status check based on reasonable suspicion

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony March 2 on a bill that would require law enforcement officials with reasonable suspicion to check the immigration status of a person who has been lawfully stopped, detained or arrested.

Under LB48, introduced by Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen, a person who is reasonably suspected to be unlawfully present in the U.S. would have to provide a driver’s license, state or tribal identification card or any federal, state or tribal issued identification that requires proof of lawful presence prior to issuance.

The bill also would:
• require those who must carry a certificate, alien registration or alien registration receipt card to do so;
• prohibit a person who is unlawfully present in the U.S. to work as an employee or independent contractor in Nebraska;
• prohibit encouraging an unlawfully present person to reside in the state;
• prohibit concealing, harboring, transporting, moving or shielding from detection an unlawfully present person; and
• prohibit profiling based upon a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

An estimated 45,000 illegal immigrants currently are living in Nebraska, Janssen said, adding that state and local governments bear most of the burden and costs associated with illegal immigration.

“I think it is time that we assist the federal government in addressing the problems of illegal immigration,” Janssen said. “We cannot afford to ignore the implications [illegal immigration has] on the state budgets any longer.”

Assistant Attorney General John Freudenberg testified in support of the bill, saying that sufficient enforcement is not occurring. LB48 creates state and local provisions for those who are not lawfully registered in the U.S. and empowers state authorities to enforce federal law, Freudenberg said.

Susan Smith, founder of the Nebraska Advisory Group, also testified in support of the bill.

LB48 could deter illegal immigration and open up more jobs in Nebraska that are currently held by illegal immigrants, Smith said.

Lazaro Arturo Spindola, executive director of the Nebraska Latino American Commission, testified in opposition to the bill, saying it would cause racial profiling.

The bill provides no other reasons for suspicion of a person’s immigration status, he said, so he questioned what other factors police could consider aside from one’s skin color or language.

Shirley Mora James, a civil rights attorney, also testified in opposition to the bill.

Mora James said she has been involved in a significant number of cases where illegal immigrants who were crime victims were too afraid to come forward and contact law enforcement. LB48 ultimately could break the sacred trust between law enforcement and crime victims and witnesses, Mora James said.

Todd Schmaderer, deputy chief of the Omaha Police Department, testified in opposition to the bill, saying it would derail the department’s mission.

Checking a person’s immigration status is time consuming, Schmaderer said, and Omaha law enforcement officers have a significant number of crimes to investigate. Furthermore, he said, checking a person’s immigration status is the function of federal law enforcement.

Lowen Kruse, member of Justice for Our Neighbors, also testified in opposition to the bill.

“We have families in Nebraska who have been here for 10 or even 15 years that are being targeted by this bill,” Kruse said. “It is uncivilized to come into a community that has been established this long and take apart those people.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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