LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers narrowly overrode their Republican governor’s veto on Wednesday to approve a law allowing certain immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to work in health care, education and dozens of other professions that require state licenses.
Senators took the vote on the last day of their legislative session, five days after Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the plan and called it unfair to immigrants who followed the established citizenship process.
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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Supporters touted the Nebraska plan as a way to fill jobs in a state with low unemployment and a worker shortage in manufacturing and other fields.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, said the law’s intent is to keep educated youth in Nebraska so they can contribute to the economy. Mello said he introduced the bill after learning that some immigrant youths in the Omaha area were training in medical fields and then taking their skills to Iowa because they couldn’t get licensed in Nebraska.
The legislation won support from an array of business and religious groups, the Nebraska Cattlemen Association and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert. The new law applies to at least 170 professions, from electricians and pharmacists to tattoo artists and mixed martial artists.
Obama’s 2012 deferred-action policy applies to people who are at least 15 years old, arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, were under 31 in 2012, have lived continuously in the U.S. since 2007 and are in school or working toward a degree. The policy gives those individuals a Social Security number, a two-year work permit and protection from deportation.
Nebraska has fought various aspects of the policy. Last year, it became the nation’s last state to extend driving privileges to immigrants who were allowed to stay in the U.S. under Obama’s program. Ricketts opposed that measure as well, but senators overrode his veto.
Other states also have already approved changes for professional licensing, including Florida, which enacted a law in 2014 that allows law licenses for youths who were brought to the U.S. as a minor, have work authorization and have lived in the country for more than 10 years. Illinois passed a similar measure last year, and Nevada approved a law to allow teaching licenses for deferred-action youths.
A new California law allows professional and commercial licenses for anyone with a taxpayer identification number, regardless of their immigration status
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