The Nebraska Democratic Party is welcoming refugees with open arms, welcome baskets … and voter registration forms.
A donation drive organized by the NDP collected some 50 gift baskets for refugees. Each contained items like diapers and kitchen utensils, a welcome letter from the Nebraska Democratic Party signed by its chairwoman Jane Kleeb, and a voter registration form, according to a video posted to Facebook by the Nebraska Democratic Party.
The video, posted Saturday March 18, discusses the details of the “Refugee Welcome Basket” project and was recorded at the Nebraska Democratic Party’s Spring Meeting.
Nebraska has, and welcomes the most refugees and immigrants on a per-capita basis,” Kleeb explains in the video as she describes the workshops set up by the NDP. The state welcomed 1,441 refugees, or 76 per 100,000 Nebraskans, between October 2015 and September 2016, according to a report by the Omaha World-Herald.
“When [President Trump] put in his racist travel ban we put out a call to action to Democrats across the state saying ‘help us create welcome baskets for refugee and immigrant families who are making Nebraska their home,’” she says.
A statement on the Refugee Welcome Basket Project from the Nebraska Democratic Party website strongly condemns President Trump’s executive action that temporarily restricts immigration from six terror-linked countries. It also calls on individuals to donate items to make a basket.
“We made sure that we had individuals write a little note to the families, and then inside each basket there’s also a letter from the Nebraska Democratic Party welcoming the family to Nebraska.”
“It’s signed by me as chair of the party, and then we include a sticker in here for them to put on their car. It also includes a voter registration form,” Kleeb states on camera. The baskets were given to two refugee resettlement agencies in Nebraska, the Refugee Empowerment Center and Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska.
Kleeb explains that one of the goals of the NDP is to identify politically active immigrants and make them feel welcome by the Nebraska Democratic Party.
There’s a big misconception that immigrants come to our country as unskilled. The reality is there are some deep political leaders that are making Nebraska their home. We have individuals that led political parties that had to flee their countries because of violence … and so we really want to make sure that folks are embraced by the Nebraska Democratic Party.
The inclusion of a voter registration form in a “welcome” gift basket designed for refugee families is eyebrow-raising. Individuals with refugee status in the United States are only allowed to naturalize after they spend a minimum of five years in the U.S. and obtain permanent residence (a green card). But presumably, individuals who accept a “welcome” basket are new arrivals to the U.S. and have not met the requirements to become citizens. They would be ineligible to register to vote.
Unfortunately, these requirements do not always stop voter fraud from occurring.
Reached for comment, NDP Chairwoman Kleeb categorically denied any wrongdoing, stressing that “it is not illegal to be handing out voter registration forms so folks start to get familiar with the forms.”
When asked what the NDP expects refugees will do with voter registration forms, Kleeb said “Once they become citizens, it is our hope, like back in the day you would hear these stories of the Democrats in Ellis Island welcoming the Irish with food and a voter registration form, so it’s really that same concept.”
“We also just wanted them to know – the letter is from me as chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party – that they are welcomed in our state and that they can come to our events, and that we have an active Facebook page.”
“I put in my business card in those letters, and a bumper sticker for their cars just to make sure they knew that we, as the Democratic Party, welcomed them,” she added.
According to Kleeb, the purpose of sending voter registration forms to newly arrived refugees was so “they start to get familiar with democracy and how you become a voter in our country.”
“I registered individuals from Somalia and Sudan this election cycle that have recently become citizens, and this is a very new process for them. We had to sit down with them and really help them understand how to fill out their name and where to put in their birthdate because it’s just a whole new process for them than what they had in their home country,” Kleeb said.
When asked if the letter signed by Chairwoman Kleeb made clear that any non-citizen refugee who received the voter registration form would break the law by completing and submitting that form, Kleeb replied “I can look at our letter, I’m not sure I said, you know, ‘you have to fill out this form.’”
“Can I just be very clear that on the voter registration form it says that you have to be a U.S. citizen, so I don’t think that I said that in the letter, but on the voter registration form it talks about that,” she clarified.
Conservative Review requested a copy of the letter from the chairwoman, but did not receive it before publication. Advising a non-citizen to file a voter registration form would potentially violate Nebraska election law. There is no evidence to suggest that the Nebraska Democratic Party or its chairwoman violated the law.
According to Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale (R), anyone” who purposely states a falsehood under oath, lawfully administered or in a statement made under penalty of election falsification ‘including a statement required for verifying or filing a voter registration application’, among other things, would be subject to a Class IV felony/ This would include a false statement that the person is a citizen of the United States.
( NE Rev 32-1502 ).”
“At the same time, under NE Rev 32-1503, subsection 11, any person who would aid, counsel, procure or advise any person to do any act forbidden by this section or to omit to do any act by law directed to be done shall be guilty of a Class IV felony,” he told CR in a statement.
A person guilty of committing a Class IV felony in Nebraska is subject up to a maximum two years imprisonment and twelve months post-release supervision and/or a ten thousand dollar fine.
Despite the Nebraska Democratic Party’s attempts to “familiarize” refugees with voter registration forms, the refugees who ultimately receive the donated supplies probably will not receive the voter registration forms.
According to Amelia Rosser, the Interim Assistant Director for the Refugee Empowerment Center, the items donated in each welcome basket will be sorted in the center’s donation area, then distributed to refugee families and those seeking help from the Refugee Empowerment Center based on need.
When asked about the presence of voter registration forms in the donated baskets, Rosser said she “could neither confirm, nor deny” their inclusion, adding that “the voter registration cards would not be distributed” to refugees that had just arrived in the United States.
“As we will be sorting the donations, to be putting them to their like supplies that we have, to be given out to refugees based upon need, the voter registration cards would not likely be distributed,” Rosser said.
What the Nebraska Democratic Party has done with these welcome baskets is not illegal, but it may seem unusual, perhaps even improper. During her interview with CR, Chairwoman Kleeb was defensive and hostile at times, noting the “pretty right wing” views of CR Senior Editor Michelle Malkin. Kleeb told CR she thought it was “shameful” that “you guys are trying to make something like this into something bad.”
The full video posted to the Nebraska Democratic Party’s verified Facebook page is available below.