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ACLU: Immigration law endangers all
Skylar Leatherman
Antelope Staff
Amy Miller
“This law creates stereotypes based on race.” Amy Miller Legal director for the Nebraska ACLU

Everyone is at risk — both immigrants, anyone with suspected immigrants

Racial profiling may soon be legal, and all citizens may need to have residency documents on them to prevent arrest. If the Nebraska legislature passes a new immigration law, police will be able to pick up anyone who “looks like” an illegal immigrant and hold that person until their citizenship status is determined. 


A legal citizen of the United States and an illegal immigrant from another country can look the same. Legislative Bill 48, known as the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act, an Arizona style bill, requires police to ask for the papers of those who are suspected to be illegal immigrants. 

Senator Charlie Janssen introduced LB 48 on Jan. 6 of this year. Janssen believes Nebraska should confront illegal immigration because Nebraska taxpayers are being asked to pay for education, welfare, and medical expenses of illegal immigrants. 

With this law, to avoid detainment or arrest, immigrants will need to have their “green card” or visa at all times. But the document is the size of a credit card and can easily be lost, and most citizens do not currently carry this information. Most keep these documents safe at home because they come with a high price tag for replacements.

Under this new law, everyone will be at risk — including those who are immigrants and anyone with the suspect. Even United States citizens are subject to criminal charges if caught with an illegal immigrant in their car. 

“If you help an illegal immigrant by giving them a ride, you are doing an illegal crime,” says Amy Miller, the legal director for the Nebraska American Civil Liberties Union. “The law states you cannot transport them. This includes immigrants who are not quite of legal status. Even if you are in the car with them and not doing anything wrong, you are participating in a crime.” 

The law states, “A peace officer shall determine the immigration status of a person who has been lawfully stopped, detained or arrested when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is unlawfully present in the United States.”

Miller, the legal director for the Nebraska ACLU for 12 years, explains that immigration is a rising issue in Nebraska.

“Five years ago, immigration was not an issue, and I would have never thought about it,” Miller said. “But recently Fremont passed a law making it illegal to rent or employ those who were in the United States illegally.” 

“This law creates stereotypes based on race,” Miller said.

The 2010 Census information shows that there was a 77 percent increase in Latino population in Nebraska from 2000 to 2010. Currently, nine percent of the total state population is Latino. 

Miller said that two-thirds of immigrants are here lawfully—either as naturalized citizens or some other lawful status. “They entered the United States on visas that allowed them to reside here temporarily—either as tourists, students or temporary workers,” Miller said. “This means they were subject to inspection by immigration officials before entering this country, and became undocumented only when their visas expired and they didn’t leave the country.”

Miller explains that almost half of all current undocumented immigrants entered the United States legally. Some may be applying for a renewal of their visa when their current visa expires. The law includes all types of immigrants; people that are not permanent residents and that are not United States citizens. This includes international students and their family members who may come to visit.


The bill doesn’t specify what to look for to know when to ask for papers. That means people without proper citizenship information on them at all times are at risk for arrest.


This legislation could also compel citizens who ”look” like immigrants to carry their social security card with them at all times. But even the Social Security Administration notes that you shouldn’t carry the card with you.


The proposed law would likely decrease the number of illegal immigrants that live in Nebraska after coming into the United States without permission and proper documentation. With this law, proponents say, immigrants would understand they must become legal citizens to stay. Some illegal immigrants would flee knowing they could be deported and will just move to another state. 


Lawmakers supporting this law say LB 48 might take some of the financial burden off of Nebraska taxpayers and giving jobs to the United States citizens who are currently unemployed. But in the meantime, how do we avoid discriminating against those who police officers may consider immigrants based upon appearance?

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