Tony Vargas

Nebraska State Sen. Tony Vargas during a Legislature session at the State Capitol Building in Lincoln on Thursday, Feb. 2.

LINCOLN — Three times already state lawmakers have stood up for young Nebraskans brought into the country illegally as children.

In 2006, the Legislature passed a law allowing such youngsters to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities if they graduated from Nebraska high schools.

Two years ago, lawmakers allowed them to get driver’s licenses. Last year, they added the ability to get professional and commercial licenses.

On Wednesday, State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha urged the Judiciary Committee to back those young people once again.

Legislative Resolution 26 would put the Legislature on record supporting the immigrants allowed to temporarily remain in the country under a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The resolution also would express legislative opposition to any action by the Trump administration to rescind or restrict the Obama-era program.

“They need to know that, no matter what is happening in other states, here in Nebraska we still support them and we see them as important members of our communities,” Vargas said.

The 2012 DACA program grants legal presence to immigrants who were brought to the nation illegally when they were young.

The program allows them to live, work and go to school in the United States. It does not give them permanent resident status or put them on a path to citizenship.

Federal officials have reported that about 3,300 DACA permits have been approved in Nebraska, along with more than 700,000 nationwide.

President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to rescind the executive order that created DACA as part of his vow to take a harder stance on illegal immigration.

Since taking office, he has sent mixed signals, expressing sympathy for the situation of DACA youth in some interviews.

Some of those youth testified in support of the resolution on Wednesday.

Among them was Armando Becerril, who was finishing his master’s degree in business administration when he testified for the professional license bill last year.

Now he is working as an audit associate at a major accounting firm and hoping to become a certified public accountant.

Selma De Anda is a fourth-year University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, studying nutrition and exercise science. She works with UNL’s Educational Talent Search to encourage middle and high school students to consider college.

“Nebraska has been my home for over 20 years,” De Anda said. “I would like to give back to my community in the best way that I can.”

Liz Palmerin and Uriel Reyes Vazquez are high school students in Omaha.

She was 3 years old when her single mother brought her to the U.S. Now she is planning to go to college, with the goal of going into dentistry.

He was a year old when his family came to the country. He is looking toward college and hoping to make his father’s hard work pay off.

Both said their dreams would be crushed and they could be forced to leave the place they consider home if the DACA program is eliminated.

“Allow my family and I to live our dreams, our lives free of the fear that our livelihoods will be ripped apart at the seams,” Reyes Vazquez said.

Among those backing the resolution Wednesday were Crete Mayor Roger Foster and the cities of Omaha and Lincoln.

No one spoke against the bill, although three people sent letters of opposition.

Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, the Judiciary Committee chairwoman, praised the resolution.

But she noted that the resolution could bring up different issues from the last two bills. Those helped implement a federal program, while LR 26 would put the state in opposition to potential federal action.

Lawmakers passed the three previous bills over gubernatorial vetoes. Legislative resolutions do not go to the governor for approval.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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