Nebraska Senate candidates have different takes on border crisis


By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — Before the primary election, Republican Senate nominee Ben Sasse’s opponents made a last-ditch effort to question his stance on immigration, but their hits made nary a dent as he cruised to victory, garnering more than twice as many votes as the runner-up.

Before the primary, Sasse said he opposed amnesty and a pathway to citizenship. He blamed the Obama administration for paying lip service to illegal immigration when its real goal is to turn Texas into a “blue or purple state.”

But some conservatives were suspicious because he accepted $2,600 from pro-amnesty businessman Mike Simmonds – the maximum he could give before the primary. In the past, Simmonds had said he wouldn’t support candidates who score political points on the backs of Hispanics or oppose granting complete amnesty to those who came here illegally — although he supported securing the border.

Ben Sasse

Hard-liners were also skeptical of Sasse because Midland University, of which he was president at the time, was involved in the effort earlier this year to repeal Fremont’s controversial ordinance that bans rentals to illegal immigrants. Fremont voters rejected the repeal.

So what’s Sasse’s take on the current border crisis, where double the usual number of Central American children have trekked north and crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, many of them with the notion they’ll be allowed to stay, under a 2012 Obama program? More than 200 of those children have been placed with relatives and sponsors in Nebraska.

Sasse released a statement saying, “Whatever our political disagreements, Nebraskans can agree that these children are caught in a humanitarian crisis. Parents everywhere should be horrified that many of these children have been trafficked by coyotes and, through no fault of their own, face the threat of disease and abuse.”

Sasse said the country needs to expedite their processing and prevent thousands more from “needlessly suffering.” The president should unequivocally declare to Central American governments and media outlets that the United States is not offering automatic amnesty, he said.

“Although the administration propagates the myth that these children are fleeing new outbreaks of Central American violence, the reality is that the vast majority of the children were trafficked to our border under the false notion that our government is offering some sort of amnesty and family reunification,” he said. “Preventing more suffering starts by setting the record straight.”

Dave Domina

Sasse’s campaign declined to comment on his stance on the $3.7 billion Obama is seeking to deal with the crisis.

His Democratic opponent, nominee Dave Domina, did not respond to a request for comment, but he made it clear on Twitter and in a campaign statement he views the children as refugees fleeing violence in Central America.

“These children are escaping countries where the murder rate is six times that of Chicago, America’s most dangerous city,” he said in the statement. “The children are running from neighborhoods where rape is an everyday occurrence and where drug lords routinely kill boys who don’t want to enter their criminal gangs.”

He was critical of Obama for being slow to respond to the crisis, noting that he played golf and attended fundraisers rather than visit the border.

“Congress and the media are wasting time playing the blame game,” Domina said. “Rather than helping, our governor complains about the 200 refugee kids who have managed to find shelter in Nebraska. If what’s happening now in Texas and Arizona was in Africa or the Middle East, we’d call it a refugee crisis – and we’d be working with the international community to find a solution.”

He proposes fully staffing the nation’s immigration courts and supports Obama’s request for emergency funding to help address court backlogs. And while he says the U.S. should police its border “intelligently” — by focusing on gang members and dangerous criminals — he also advocates for creating “a just and humane temporary worker program” that issues “short-term work visas for migrants to do jobs that are difficult to staff with native-born workers.”

“A temporary work program will boost our own economy even as it gives people from around the world the opportunity to experience American freedom and to accumulate savings that will spark development in their home countries,” he said.

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