Arizona-style bill introduced in Nebraska Legislature

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January 6th, 2011

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Nebraska legislators introduced an Arizona-style immigration bill at the Capitol Thursday (Photo courtesy Mawhamba, Wikimedia)

Lincoln, NE – An Arizona-style bill intended to crack down on illegal immigration was introduced in the Legislature Thursday.

Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont introduced LB48, which Attorney General Jon Bruning helped draft, and endorsed. It’s similar to the controversial legislation adopted in Arizona last year. It would require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop, if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. If they are in custody, they won’t be released until their immigration status is determined. If a person is found to be in the country illegally, federal authorities will be notified. Janssen says his goal is to protect the public.

“It protects the taxpayers from paying for the education, health care, medical expenses, and education of illegal aliens. It also adds to our security,” said Janssen. “We have people that are here, we don’t know their medical backgrounds, we don’t know especially their criminal backgrounds, and that makes me nervous. I have two small children. There are people that could be handling my children, your children, and Nebraskans’ children, and we don’t know anything about these people.”

Janssen denied that people would be asked to prove their citizenship simply because they’re Hispanic. He pointed to a section of the bill that says race, color or national origin can’t be the sole basis for suspicion. The bill also says people can show they’re in the country legally by producing a driver’s license, even though some states issue those to illegal immigrants. Attorney General Bruning acknowledged the proposal is not airtight.

“Like the senator said, we’re not trying to cast a perfect net,” remarked Bruning. “We’re trying to use state government in a job that they’re not getting done. It’s like cutting all the blades of grass out here. Are we going to get every one? But if we get a few more people, cutting a few more blades of grass, we’re going to get a few more than we did before.”

Bruning acknowledged if the bill passes, it will face a court challenge like the Arizona law, which is on hold pending an appeal. Within hours of the bill’s introduction, the Nebraska Appleseed Center said it would drain the state’s resources, divide communities and diminish public safety. Opponents said hundreds of people would protest against it at the Capitol next Tuesday.

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