DACA

Despite nearly 3,000 Deferred Action for Child Arrivals recipients in the state of Nebraska being in the frontlines as essential workers, none are eligible for their hard earned unemployment benefits like their documented peers.

This prompts many to ask the question of why these recipients are being denied such hard earned benefits, especially during what’s deemed as a very trying time in our world. 

The why is quite simple. Current Nebraska law states that an immigrant may only receive unemployment insurance if their immigration status is lawful. Therefore only those who immigrated here lawfully may receive such benefits. 

But what about those who didn’t immigrate here by choice? DACA recipients immigrated here at a very young age, an age where one wouldn’t even understand what immigration really is. Several of these people came here when they were just babies, and Nebraska is the only home they’ve ever known. 

Denying benefits to individuals who have worked just as hard as many other documented people in this state is blatant discrimantion. 

To speak of my home state in this manner is not enjoyable, but there’s no other way to put it. Nebraska is the only state in our country that denies DACA recipients of unemployment benefits.

While Nebraska has a tendency to want to do its own thing, this issue is more important than state autonomy. Why do we have a desire to be the only state in our country that doesn’t allow all unemployed people their benefits? Could it be that decisions like this curated by some of our government officials are what keep them in office? If so, I can’t say I’m surprised, but simply hurt once again by what many support in this state. 

One who may not know too much about how unemployment benefits are funded in our state could argue that it wouldn’t be in the state’s interest. However, it should be noted that unemployment in Nebraska is paid by employers themselves. 

It should also be noted that the only additional funding that goes towards the disbursement of unemployment benefits in Nebraska is through taxes. And while DACA recipients only make up one percent of the state, they pay over $14 million in state and local taxes

To say that this state isn’t discriminating against hardworking people, many who have been a big contribution in our state during this pandemic, would be absurd.

How can we call essential workers superheroes, and then not provide the same care and respect to all essential workers. Regardless of legal status, these people are our friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, nurses and caregivers.. The contribution of DACA recipients in many work fields is immense, but the thanks is silent. 

I’m not here to say that all of our politicians aren’t doing what they should because that’s not true. Most recently, Sen. Mike McDonnell presented LB298 to the Business and Labor Committee. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that all work authorized Nebraskan immigrants would be able to receive unemployment insurance by including them in the already existing bill for unemployment. While this bill has not yet been passed, it at least shows that some politicians are interested in change.

While some of us may not think too much about what goes into receiving our food at the dinner table or think about who our teachers are, or the doctors and nurses in hospitals are, many are hardworking DACA recipients — recipients that are deprived of unemployment benefits during one of the most trying times in our world’s history.

To deprive hard workers of something so crucial during a global pandemic should be seen as inhumane. What is this state gaining when we deny unemployment benefits due to one’s legal status? Especially to those who have never called another country home, and in many cases who have never called another state besides Nebraska home. We gain nothing, but we say a lot in denying people we work alongside of the benefits we receive. 

To the 3,000 DACA and TPS recipients in this state, I see you, and I thank you for all you do. I hope the state of Nebraska can do the same.

Evelyn Mejia is a freshman broadcast journalism major. Reach her at evelynmejia@dailynebraskan.com