Youth brought into the country illegally when children would be eligible to obtain driver’s licenses in Nebraska under a bill advancing in the Unicameral.
Nebraska is the last holdout in denying a state driver’s license to such youth.
Senator Jeremy Nordquist sponsors the measure, Legislative Bill 623.
“This bill is about economic growth and opportunity,” Nordquist said as he re-opened legislative debate on the bill Thursday morning. “It’s about the future of Nebraska. It’s about removing barriers for educated, young Nebraskans. And that’s what they are. This is their home. They have been in Nebraska nearly their entire lives and they deserve the right to drive.”
Nordquist had to overcome a filibuster coordinated by Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion who argued that Nebraska should retain its policy, because the youth in question are in the country illegally.
Kintner acknowledged during floor debate it’s hard not to feel for the youth involved.
“I got to tell you, my heart goes out to those kids that were brought here by no act of their own and now they’re here and they’re caught up in the middle of a system and you can’t help but have compassion for them,”Kintner stated.
Kintner, though, couldn’t talk the bill to death.
Legislators first voted 39-6-4 to end the filibuster, then voted 37-8-4 to advance LB 623. It needs to clear two more rounds of debate to move on to the governor’s desk.
Another opponent, Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, played off the nickname given the youth: DREAMers, in reference to the DREAM Act, an immigration reform measure which has failed to pass Congress. Brasch asserted there were 4.4 million other DREAMers, immigrants waiting in line to become American citizens.
“People who dream of immigrating to this great country, despite our flaws, our trials, our tribulations, our politics, our fabric, 4.4 million people wait patiently, legally in line for the American dream,” Brasch stated.
Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete told colleagues the argument of opponents is persuasive, to a point.
“First of all, let me just say that the kneejerk reaction of saying these kids are illegal, so they shouldn’t get any benefits; that almost makes sense,” Ebke said. “After all, illegal is illegal and we don’t want to encourage illegal activity. But the calculus changes, for me anyway, when we start talking about kids.”
Opponents of LB 623 mounted the filibuster when it hit the floor Wednesday. The Unicameral moved to other legislation that evening and the legislature renewed the debate on LB 623 on Thursday morning.
Debate, at times, featured sharp exchanges. Supporters accused opponents of fomenting racist stereotypes of Hispanic immigrants. Opponents accused supporters of ignoring immigration law.
Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha told colleagues he thought long and hard about the debate.
“As I was pondering the debate of that day as I was going home last night, I thought it mirrors our country’s immigration policy: confusing, complicated, sometimes bitter,” according to Hilkemann.
Nebraska is the last state to refuse to allow youth brought to this country illegally by their parents to obtain a state driver’s license.
Often called DREAMers, the youth officially are known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by the federal government. President Barack Obama in 2012 issued an executive order shielding DACA youth from deportation.
AUDIO: Sen. Jeremy Nordquist reopens debate on LB 623. [5:25]
AUDIO: Sen. Bill Kintner discusses opposition to LB 623. [5 min.]