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Gov. Ricketts: Proof of citizenship not required for COVID vaccine

Posted at 6:36 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 19:36:24-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — When asked if undocumented immigrants at meatpacking plants would be vaccinated, Governor Ricketts provided a vague answer Monday. He clarified his comments Wednesday after confusion and some backlash, stating that proof of citizenship or legal residency would not be required for vaccination.

"If you're working in the plants, you're supposed to be here legally. So, to get the vaccination you got to be working here legally to be part of the food processing program," the governor said Monday.

After Monday's statement U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez retweeted out a video of the governor's comments saying, "Imagine being so racist that you go out of your way to ensure that the people who prepare your food are unvaccinated."

"She doesn't care about Nebraska or the people of Nebraska," Gov. Ricketts responded Wednesday.

To further clarify his comments, on Wednesday Gov. Ricketts explained that every Nebraskan will get a vaccine.

"We expect that there's going to be vaccines for all Nebraskans. Just like any other vaccine, your citizenship is not checked before you receive a vaccine...But by a matter of law if you're working at one of these facilities, you're supposed to be legal," Gov. Ricketts said.

State health officials also clarified.

"I think the point of his statement was that in order to work in those facilities you should be documented," Angie Ling with the Department of Health and Human Services said.

But the confusion has the potential to fend off meatpacking plant workers from getting the vaccine, the same workers who were some of the most impacted by the virus months ago.

"All Nebraskans regardless of immigration status are going to have access to a vaccine. That is in fact what he should've said," Rose Godinez with the legal and policy council at ACLU Nebraska said.

Meatpacking plant workers are considered essential and are in group 1B of vaccinations after the elderly, first responders and those in education. They will receive the vaccine if they choose to get it, without having to prove their legality.

"We're not checking papers, we're not checking for documentation. We want you to be a resident of Nebraska and a citizen of the United States but it's the same as testing, no ones checking for documents," Ling said.