Legislative Bill (LB) 623

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"Juan Gallegos, Dayana Lopez and Alejandra Ayotitla came to Nebraska as children, brought into the state by undocumented parents.

They integrated into the culture, went to school, graduated, then moved on to college.

But without citizenship, or visas, they faced barriers, even with a federal decision to make these children of undocumented immigrants a low priority for removal from the country.

In Nebraska, they faced a major barrier: no driving.

According to a presidential executive action, young people who meet certain guidelines can request consideration for deferred action on immigration laws, may get Social Security numbers and authorization to work.

Nebraska is the only state that has refused to allow them to have driver's licenses. Former Gov. Dave Heineman said the state would give no benefits to people who are not here legally. He first denied licenses in 2012.

The American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit in 2013 in state court against Heineman and the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.

On Wednesday, Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist introduced a bill (LB623) to remedy the driver's license ban. At the same time, he said, he hoped to work with Gov. Pete Ricketts to reverse the policy decision.

In Nebraska, depending on where one lives, Nordquist said, it can be hard to get anywhere, let alone to work or school, without a driver's license. "It just doesn't make sense," he said. "Why would we want to limit their ability to work and to contribute to our economy and contribute to our communities?"

Taxpayers have invested tens of thousands of dollars in the education of some 2,300 of these students and young adults, he said.

Gallegos, 25, came to Hastings from Mexico when he was 12, graduated from high school and got a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

After graduating with a degree in art and multi-media, and without a driver's license, he had trouble finding a suitable job in rural Nebraska. He moved to Colorado, where he had an internship with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and then a job as its communications coordinator. He also had a driver's license.

When he had to come back in April for a family emergency, he said, he moved to Lincoln to find a job, one to which he could walk or take a bus. But most would require him to have a driver's license to do the job, he said.

Not having one forced him to sometimes drive without a license when he felt he had no other option, he said.

"At the end of the day, it's a public safety issue," Gallegos said. "Do we want to have people on the roads who are not insured or without a driver's license?"

To qualify for deferred action, children had to have entered the country at 15 or younger, must have been here June 15, 2007, to June 15, 2012, and have no disqualifying crimes. They have to be at least 15 to apply, and they must be in school, high school graduates or GED recipients.

The law is clear that these young people should be eligible for driver's licenses, said Shane Ellison, of Justice for Our Neighbors.

"This bill makes that even clearer, so that there should not be any basis whatsoever for denying driver's licenses to recipients of deferred action," he said."

Thank you for all that came out to support, including the Cattlemen Association, and coalition members: Justice For Our Neighbors, Nebraska Appleseed, ACLU NE, Latino Center of the Midlands, Catholic Charities, and more importantly Senator Nordquist for proposing this bill. 

In order to ensure that this bill passes, we need everyone's help to continue raising awareness to this issue. Interested in getting involved? Call us @ 402-933-6095.

News-category1HWC Staff