Supporters of immigrant youths who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children expressed deep disappointment Monday in Attorney General Doug Peterson's decision to urge the Trump administration to end their protection to remain here.
Peterson joined nine other Republican state attorneys general in asking that the administration reverse its earlier decision to allow so-called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) youths to retain legal presence in the United States.
More than 3,000 young immigrants live in Nebraska under that protection.
Peterson said his duty is to "uphold the Constitution, not to pick winners and losers with regard to policy."
"When we see the executive branch exceeds (its) authority and by doing so impacts the state, it is necessary for us to challenge the actions of the executive branch," Peterson said in a telephone interview.
President Donald Trump has been inconsistent in expressing his views about DACA, siding most recently with continued protection for the youths while expressing sympathy for the position they are in because of no fault of their own.
"Frankly, on a personal level, that's very difficult," Peterson said when asked if he shares any such sympathy, but his duty is "fidelity to the Constitution."
The state attorneys general asked that the DACA program, authorized by former President Barack Obama, be phased out by rescinding the DACA executive action and then refusing to renew or issue any new DACA permits.
That request "does not reflect our state's values nor its widespread support for Nebraska's vibrant immigrant youth who have deep family, social and economic ties to our state," Nebraska Appleseed immigrants and communities staff attorney Omaid Zabih said.
"It is wrong for these states' attorneys general to play politics with the health, well-being and future of these successful, yet vulnerable, young people; and it is particularly wrong for our attorney general to target our young Nebraska dreamers," said Danielle Conrad, ACLU of Nebraska executive director.
"We are deeply disappointed that Attorney General Doug Peterson has aligned himself with a small set of radical, out-of-state public officials to target Nebraska DACA youth."
The letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was spearheaded by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Nebraska's Legislature has consistently supported the predominantly Latino DACA youths who were brought to the country when they were babies or young children, overriding a series of gubernatorial vetoes to do so.
Prior to adjourning their 2017 session, state senators approved a resolution opposing any federal action to rescind protections for DACA youths.
But 17 senators declined to vote on the motion, which was approved on a 24-1 vote.
On three separate occasions in the past, the Legislature has voted to grant DACA youths resident tuition rates at Nebraska colleges and universities, the right to acquire Nebraska driver's licenses and to earn professional and commercial licenses to work in the state.
All were enacted over gubernatorial vetoes, the first by former Gov. Dave Heineman and the latter two by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Zabih, the Appleseed attorney, said DACA youths have contributed to Nebraska communities and the state's economy by "attending school, going to work and putting their skills and talents to use in the only place they know as home."