Ricketts vetoes driver's licenses bill for immigrant youth

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2015 10:56 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed a bill Wednesday that would end Nebraska's status as the only state to ban driving privileges for young people brought to the country illegally as children but allowed to stay under a federal program.

The announcement sets up another showdown between the Republican governor and lawmakers who passed the bill last week with a veto-proof majority.

Ricketts argued in his veto letter that the bill would grant driver's licenses to an overly broad group of people in the country illegally, not just the so-called Dreamers enrolled in the federal program.

"The bill is wrong on principle and the bill is overly broad," Ricketts said. "The effort to advance (the legislation) demonstrates once again how the failure of the federal government to properly address national immigration policy wreaks havoc on state governments."

The federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program approved by President Barack Obama in 2012 gives the youths — known as DREAMers — a Social Security number, a two-year work permit and protection from deportation.

Lawmakers gave the measure final approval last week on a 34-9 vote. The bill has won support from a coalition of prominent agricultural, business and religious groups that say the youths contribute to the state and its economy.

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, the bill's lead sponsor, said he expects lawmakers will override the veto on Thursday.

"It's unfortunate that Gov. Ricketts is choosing to try to score cheap political points on the backs of bright young immigrant youth," he said. "The bill has broad bipartisan support in the Legislature and outside the Legislature."

The state policy was approved in 2012 by former Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican who campaigned heavily against illegal immigration. Ricketts has argued that those who arrived in the country illegally shouldn't receive privileges intended for legal residents.

A similar law in Arizona was blocked by a federal appeals court in July, leaving Nebraska as the only state with such a policy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska is challenging the policy in court.

An advocacy group for the youths issued a statement Wednesday evening urging lawmakers to override the veto.

"We are gravely disappointed in Gov. Ricketts' choice to harm young Nebraskans and Nebraska communities with his veto," said Darcy Tromanhauser, the immigrants and communities director for Nebraska Appleseed.

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The bill is LB623