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Immigration Reform Could Help NE Ag Industry

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Immigration Reform Could Help NE Ag Industry

By Kimberly Foley. CREATED Jul 24, 2014 - UPDATED: Jul 24, 2014
Omaha, NE - Agriculture is the biggest industry in the state of Nebraska.
 
Nebraska Cattlemen are on the same page as State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, who's fighting the governor on a key immigration issue.
 
"We're small business owners, and small business owners have to hire employees," said Kristen Hassebrook, the vice president of legal and regulatory affairs for Nebraska Cattlemen. "We go out and look to hire employees. Immigrants still fill a part of that need."
 
The Nebraska Cattleman said immigration reform is needed at the federal level, in part to support modern labor needs in the country.
 
"If we're unable to fill our labor needs, that hurts our small businesses, the beef community, the state of Nebraska and our ability to produce food," said Hassebrook.
 
While the issue is fiercely partisan in Washington D.C., locally, the typically conservative group does not back Governor Heineman's decision to deny driver's licenses to certain illegal immigrants.
 
Nebraska is the only state that doesn't allow it.
 
"We have created artificial hurdles that don't need to be there, like not allowing them to get a driver's license," said State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist.
 
Nordquist is working on legislation to keep Nebraska in line with President Obama's 2012 executive order that allows dreamers to legally drive.
 
"These are kids, who we as taxpayers, have invested a lot in," said Nordquist. "Many of them are very successful. Giving them a driver's license, to be a part of our economy, is the right thing to do."
 
It is also something the state's biggest money maker may depend on.
 
"A key difference for our industry, in terms of driver's licenses, is when our employees get to work,  we still need them to drive vehicles," said Hassebrook.
 
Nordquist will introduce this legislation in the next session.
 
He estimated there are about 2,200 dreamers in Nebraska who would qualify for licenses.