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Nebraska allows state licences for thousands of immigrants

Published:Friday | April 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Spectators who were brought to the US illegally as children, applaud in the balcony overlooking the Legislative Chamber at the State Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Wednesday.


Nebraska will allow thousands of immigrants brought to the US illegally as children to work in at least 170 professions that require state licences, including health care and education after lawmakers overrode conservative Republican Government Pete Ricketts' veto of the measure on Wednesday.

Senators took the vote on the last day of their legislative session, five days after Ricketts called it unfair to immigrants who followed the legal pathway to citizenship. Young immigrants and other supporters erupted in applause from the gallery of the chamber following the 31-13 vote.

The new law applies to immigrants who received lawful status under President Barack Obama's executive action in 2012 that allowed them to stay. Nebraska had nearly 5,200 youths who qualified as of December, according to the latest data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Supporters touted the Nebraska plan as a way to fill jobs in a state with an unemployment rate of only three per cent per cent and a skilled worker shortage in fields such as manufacturing and nursing. Ricketts referred to the proposal as an "amnesty bill" and tried to pressure lawmakers with press conferences, open letters and personal phone calls to senators.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Senator Heath Mello of Omaha, said the law's intent is to keep educated youth in Nebraska so they can contribute to the economy.

The bill divided Republican lawmakers, pitting staunch opponents of illegal immigration against those who cast it as a business opportunity.