Legislature overrides Ricketts' veto, approves "Dreamers" driver's licenses

May 28, 2015, 5:40 a.m. ·


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The Nebraska Legislature overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts veto Thursday and authorized drivers licenses for so-called "Dreamers" – young people brought to this country illegally when they were children.

The federal government has offered so-called "deferred action" status to various immigrants, such as refugees or victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. President Barack Obama’s administration instituted a program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in 2012. Under former Gov. Dave Heineman, Nebraska refused to grant DACA recipients driver’s licenses. The other 49 states have now done so.

Urging an override of Gov. Ricketts’ veto of his LB623, Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist said Nebraska should make licenses available to young people who have grown up in this country. "Right now the only deferred action program that is arbitrarily being discriminated against is the DACA program. Let us get these 2,700 kids the right to drive in Nebraska and move forward with (LB)623," he said.

Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion objected, saying Obama had exceeded his executive authority by creating the DACA program. "Now we pass a bill that doesn’t just give it to them. It gives it to anyone that our unlawful president -- our lawless president at times -- deems can stay in our country – just by a stroke of the pen, with no action by Congress—with no law to back it up," he said.

Kintner said while the bill had been "sold" as applying only to so-called "Dreamers," it would actually authorize driver’s licenses to a much broader class of recipients the Obama administration created last year known as DAPA, for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.

But Nordquist said a federal court has said the administration is unlikely to prevail in defending that program. "The DAPA program is going to be litigated for years to come. If it is appealed to the Supreme Court it won’t be until most likely after the next presidential election, in which there would be a new administration. So that issue is a non-issue," he said.

Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft opposed overriding the governor’s veto. "I would agree that many of the DACA students have achieved great accomplishments despite their being illegal immigrants and the children of illegal immigrants. I do support the veto by the governor on behalf of the 4.4 million immigrants who would like to immigrate here legally," she said.

Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor supported the override, linking it to the larger issue of illegal immigration, in which he said Americans are complicit. "We all contribute to the problem of illegal immigration because we eat vegetables and we eat fruits, and we eat off clean plates in restaurants and we enjoy well-manicured lawns and flowers and gardens. And we become part of, when we do that, the hypocrisy that is immigration," he said.

After less than an hour of debate, lawmakers voted 34-10 to override the veto. Following the vote, Ricketts issued a statement calling the licenses an "inappropriate benefit to noncitizens," adding that the legislation extends those benefits to "any illegal immigrant who has ‘approved deferred action status,’ and not just the young adults many senators intended to help."

Back Announce: The bill had an "emergency clause" attached, meaning it goes into effect immediately. Director of Motor Vehicles Rhonda Lahm (LAMM) said the DMV will be prepared to issue drivers licenses to so-called "Dreamers" at the start of business on Friday.