Immigration bill could stall


January 24th, 2011

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Sen. Charlie Janssen's proposed legislation is similar to Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

Lincoln, NE – It looks like one of the highest profile bills in the Legislature this year. But an Arizona-style law against illegal immigrant may not get past a committee hearing.

Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen’s proposal would require law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of people they stop, if they have reason to suspect those people are in the country illegally.  In order to be considered by the full Legislature, it must first be voted out of the Judiciary Committee.  There, it’s scheduled for a public hearing March 2nd, the same day as a competing resolution offered by Omaha Sen. Brenda Council.  That resolution says immigration’s a federal issue and that local law enforcement should focus on crime, not federal civil violations.  It calls on Congress to enact humane reforms that meet the country’s work force needs and the needs of families.  Council is clear that she’s targeting Janssen’s proposal, LB48.

“We have far greater issues that have immediate need for our attention,” she said.  “And that’s what I want…I hope that we can derail LB48, and that we can focus our energies where they can best effect positive change in Nebraska.”

Janssen said it’s not his bill that’s inappropriately shifting on the focus.

“This resolution is wasting the Legislature’s time.  My bill is not.”

Janssen’s bill has the support of Attorney General Jon Bruning, and Gov. Dave Heineman has indicated he’s open to such a proposal, although he has not endorsed this specific bill. But it may not get to the full Legislature. To advance from the Judiciary Committee, it would need support from five of the committee’s eight members. As of last week, only one committee member – Sen. Scott Laughtenbaugh of Omaha, said he was definitely supporting it. Three, Council, Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln, and Committee Chairman Brad Ashford of Omaha, were opposed. The remainder, Sens. Colby Coash of Lincoln, Steve Lathrop and Burke Harr of Omaha, and Tyson Larson of O’Neill, said they are neutral for now, although several expressed reservations.

If the bill gets stuck in committee, Janssen could still try to get it debated. But that would require support from at least a majority of all senators, and possibly as many as two thirds, depending on the committee’s action and the timing.

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