Nebraska stands alone in denying driver’s licenses to dreamers

Juan Gallegos, a 26-year-old dreamer, has been living in Nebraska ever since he was 12 years old. He and his parents moved to the state from Mexico seeking a better life. Gallegos grew up in Nebraska and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia from the University of Nebraska—all while living with the constant threat of deportation. However, thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by the Obama administration, he is now able to stay and work legally in the country. SEE ALSO: House votes to block Obama’s executive actions, end DACA The federal program allows undocumented young immigrants, like Gallegos, to apply for a work permit and temporary reprieve from deportation if they were brought to the United States as children and have a clean criminal record. But challenges remain for undocumented youth living in Nebraska. That’s because Nebraska is the only state that still refuses to let DACA recipients apply for driver’s licenses. This makes it difficult for undocumented youth to get around in a state that some say doesn’t have a great public transportation system. “I think it’s time for Nebraska to get right with the rest of the nation and allow DACA-mented youth to drive to some of the jobs that we’ve worked so hard to get,” Gallegos said in an interview with VOXXI. State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist (D-Omaha) also believes that DACA recipients should be able to drive. He introduced a bill last week that would allow Gallegos and other undocumented young immigrants who’ve been approved for the DACA program to apply for driver’s licenses in Nebraska. If approved, the bill would benefit about 2,600 undocumented young immigrants living in the state who’ve been approved for the federal program. “So many of these kids have amazing stories and bright futures and are already contributing to the economy of our state,” Nordquist told VOXXI. “And because we have so far refused to provide driver’s licenses, we’re holding them back from reaching their full potential as members of our community and members of our economy.” Five legislators have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including three Republicans. Nordquist said he knows of a number of Republicans who didn’t sign on as co-sponsors but are supportive of his bill in part because of the growing Latino populations in their districts. SEE ALSO: Dreamers begin applying for driver’s licenses in Arizona The bill comes almost a year after a federal judge threw out a lawsuit challenging Nebraska’s policy of denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. However, a similar lawsuit is still pending at a lower court. Alejandra Ayotitla, a 19-year-old DACA recipient who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in phycology at the University of Nebraska, would also benefit from Nordquist’s bill. She and her younger sister left Mexico with their mother a decade ago to reunite with their father in Nebraska. Ayotitla said she has to take the bus to school or depend on others for rides because the state won’t allow her to get a driver’s license. “It would just make it a lot easier for us to be able to move around,” she said about being to get a driver’s license. “It would also allow us to give back to the economy, because we would be able to buy cars and pay for insurance.” The driver’s license ban against DACA recipients in Nebraska has been in place for more than two years. It began in August 2012 when then-Republican Gov. Dave Heineman announced that the state would not issue driver’s licenses and other state benefits to DACA recipients. “They shouldn’t be here if they’re not here legally,” Heineman told reporters at the time, according to The Associated Press. “That’s the whole problem, and I’ve talked to you guys about this many, many times. When you don’t secure the border, have a speedier technological way to legal immigration, and you won’t address the issue that we’ve got 15 million illegal immigrants in the country right now, we end up with these situations.” Heineman’s announcement came just three days after the federal government began accepting applications for the DACA program. It also came several days after then-Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order preventing DACA recipients from obtaining driver’s licenses. Last week, a federal judge struck down that order in Arizona. SEE ALSO: Not all DACA benefits are created equally for all students Now that Heineman is no longer in office—after stepping down due to reaching the term limit—all eyes are on Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts. The newly-elected Republican governor has expressed supports for Nebraska’s current driver’s license ban against DACA recipients. Still, Nordquist remains hopeful that will change. “We are hoping that he’ll take action administratively and reverse this,” Nordquist said, referring to Ricketts. “We certainly think he has the discretion to be able to do that within the law.”The post Nebraska stands alone in denying driver’s licenses to dreamers appeared first on Voxxi.

Nebraska is the only state that still denies driver’s licenses to DACA recipients, but a state legislator has introduced legislation to try to change that. (Shutterstock photo)

Juan Gallegos, a 26-year-old dreamer, has been living in Nebraska ever since he was 12 years old. He and his parents moved to the state from Mexico seeking a better life.

Gallegos grew up in Nebraska and went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia from the University of Nebraska—all while living with the constant threat of deportation. However, thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by the Obama administration, he is now able to stay and work legally in the country.

SEE ALSO: House votes to block Obama’s executive actions, end DACA

The federal program allows undocumented young immigrants, like Gallegos, to apply for a work permit and temporary reprieve from deportation if they were brought to the United States as children and have a clean criminal record.

But challenges remain for undocumented youth living in Nebraska. That’s because Nebraska is the only state that still refuses to let DACA recipients apply for driver’s licenses. This makes it difficult for undocumented youth to get around in a state that some say doesn’t have a great public transportation system.

“I think it’s time for Nebraska to get right with the rest of the nation and allow DACA-mented youth to drive to some of the jobs that we’ve worked so hard to get,” Gallegos said in an interview with VOXXI.

State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist's bill would allow DACA recipients to apply for driver's licenses in Nebraska. (Photo credit: Nebraska Legislature)
State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist’s bill would allow DACA recipients to apply for driver’s licenses in Nebraska. (Photo credit: Nebraska Legislature)

State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist (D-Omaha) also believes that DACA recipients should be able to drive. He introduced a bill last week that would allow Gallegos and other undocumented young immigrants who’ve been approved for the DACA program to apply for driver’s licenses in Nebraska.

If approved, the bill would benefit about 2,600 undocumented young immigrants living in the state who’ve been approved for the federal program.

“So many of these kids have amazing stories and bright futures and are already contributing to the economy of our state,” Nordquist told VOXXI. “And because we have so far refused to provide driver’s licenses, we’re holding them back from reaching their full potential as members of our community and members of our economy.”

Five legislators have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including three Republicans. Nordquist said he knows of a number of Republicans who didn’t sign on as co-sponsors but are supportive of his bill in part because of the growing Latino populations in their districts.

SEE ALSO: Dreamers begin applying for driver’s licenses in Arizona

The bill comes almost a year after a federal judge threw out a lawsuit challenging Nebraska’s policy of denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. However, a similar lawsuit is still pending at a lower court.

Alejandra Ayotitla, a 19-year-old DACA recipient who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in phycology at the University of Nebraska, would also benefit from Nordquist’s bill. She and her younger sister left Mexico with their mother a decade ago to reunite with their father in Nebraska.

Ayotitla said she has to take the bus to school or depend on others for rides because the state won’t allow her to get a driver’s license.

“It would just make it a lot easier for us to be able to move around,” she said about being to get a driver’s license. “It would also allow us to give back to the economy, because we would be able to buy cars and pay for insurance.”

Former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman opposed allowing DACA recipients to get driver's licenses.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman opposed giving driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The driver’s license ban against DACA recipients in Nebraska has been in place for more than two years.

It began in August 2012 when then-Republican Gov. Dave Heineman announced that the state would not issue driver’s licenses and other state benefits to DACA recipients.

“They shouldn’t be here if they’re not here legally,” Heineman told reporters at the time, according to The Associated Press. “That’s the whole problem, and I’ve talked to you guys about this many, many times. When you don’t secure the border, have a speedier technological way to legal immigration, and you won’t address the issue that we’ve got 15 million illegal immigrants in the country right now, we end up with these situations.”

Heineman’s announcement came just three days after the federal government began accepting applications for the DACA program. It also came several days after then-Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order preventing DACA recipients from obtaining driver’s licenses. Last week, a federal judge struck down that order in Arizona.

SEE ALSO: Not all DACA benefits are created equally for all students

Now that Heineman is no longer in office—after stepping down due to reaching the term limit—all eyes are on Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts. The newly-elected Republican governor has expressed supports for Nebraska’s current driver’s license ban against DACA recipients. Still, Nordquist remains hopeful that will change.

“We are hoping that he’ll take action administratively and reverse this,” Nordquist said, referring to Ricketts. “We certainly think he has the discretion to be able to do that within the law.”

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