“I think that if this bill was passed two years ago, I wouldn’t be standing here,” says Shafiq Jahish, who was granted a special permission visa issued by the United States for almost 10 years of service as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
Jahish was one of the many voices that spoke against LB 966 at a public hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska’s legislature this February.
Senator Kintner of District 2 in Papillion was the one to introduce the bill but didn’t want it to pass through the Committee because he says it needs revision. The public hearing served as an opportunity for both sides of the argument to voice their opinions.
The bill would require Nebraska agencies which would resettle refugees to prove that they would be able to cover up to $25 million dollars for any criminal acts committed by a refugee within the first five years of resettlement in the state.
The bill included 33 “high-risk” countries and the territories of Palestine, which all but three, including North Korea, Russia, Kyrgystan, are predominately Muslim.
“There is a real fear and founded fear by Nebraskans that this president is going to bring in people from countries with a lot of terrorism and place them in Nebraska,” says Kintner.
Kintner says that the legislature wouldn’t be able to revise a potentially bad federal program or stop the United States from taking in refugees but this program would help discourage state agencies to reconsider taking in refugees from places like Syria and Iraq.
Although, the bill was not passed, Todd Reckling, vice president of programs for Lutheran Family Services (LFS) says that if it were his organization would not be able to comply if LB 966 went through the committee.
In his testimony, Reckling said that coverage needed in the bill was not available from the organization’s provider, but also “LFS would have to pay $783,000 per day until we were in compliance with the insurance coverage required.”
Not only was money an issue for LFS, Reckling says the organization has problems with the constitutionality of the bill as well.
“We very much believe that the bill discriminates against certain types of refugees because of their national of origin,” says Reckling.
This bill was proposed late in 2015 after the United States announced for the acceptance of 10,000 Syrian refugees over the course this year.
Only 3,000 people fleeing from the crisis in Syria have been accepted into the U.S. and none of which have been settled in Nebraska.