LINCOLN — A measure that supporters believe would protect Americans from potential Islamic jihadists drew opponents Friday who called the proposal immoral, illegal and discriminatory against some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
But even before the hour of testimony from some 20 people began, the bill’s sponsor acknowledged the proposal wasn’t going anywhere this year.
Still, Papillion Sen. Bill Kintner said Friday’s Judiciary Committee hearing on Legislative Bill 966 was “a good opportunity to start a discussion.”
While attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, have put people on edge, he said, there’s time to evaluate the bill because “we’re not under immediate threat” here.
Under LB 966, refugee resettlement agencies would be held liable for refugees from “high-risk” countries who commit crimes.
The bill listed 34 countries or territories as high risk, including Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The areas are mostly majority Muslim.
Kintner has said the measure is aimed at Syrian refugees.
But Friday, a representative from the state’s largest placement agency for refugees said the measure would halt refugee resettlement and effectively shut down the entire organization.
Complying with Kintner’s proposal would cause Lutheran Family Services to violate its mission and existing anti-discrimination law, said Todd Reckling, a vice president for the nonprofit organization.
But not complying would hold the group liable for the actions of an arbitrary group of people, he said.
Plus, he said, the group’s insurance carrier says the liability insurance policy required under the measure is not even available.
The measure would require organizations that sponsor refugees and have contracts with the government pay for the costs of prosecutions and for damages and injuries up to $25 million to victims should a refugee commit a crime.
“LB 966 goes against our organization’s mission to express God’s love for all people and our Christian faith, which motivates us to welcome the stranger and to care for our neighbor,” Reckling said.
Supporters of the bill argued the bill is necessary because they believe the federal government isn’t properly vetting refugees.
But others argued refugees are among the most vetted immigrants, and punishing nonprofit agencies for the acts of individuals is irresponsible.
Kintner said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll bring the measure back during the next legislative session.
“There’s people that are passionate on both sides of this,” he said. “Let the committee hear it, digest it, then as we get into the next year, we can go through what needs to get done, if anything.”
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