Gov. Ricketts Misses His Shot

Jan. 8, 2021

Sure, the Nebraska governor said something dumb - but it was in response to a dumb question.

Full disclosure: As a Cubs fan, I love the Ricketts family. If it weren’t for their ownership, the Cubs’ World Series drought would probably be at 112 years and counting.

That’s perhaps why I’m inclined to give Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts the benefit of the doubt when he made a meal of his foot a few days ago trying to answer a question about undocumented workers and vaccines.

At a press conference, Ricketts was asked whether workers at Nebraska’s meat processing plants will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine if they are undocumented. His reply: “You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of the vaccine with that program.”

OK, that was a surpassingly dumb response in many ways. Gov. Ricketts knows perfectly well, he knows as well as anyone reading this, that meatpacking plants are chockablock with undocumented workers. According to one estimate, about 14% of the workers in Nebraska’s meat plants have that status.

We can debate all day about the degree of injustice involved in that situation and what can and should be done about it. But no one seriously believes that Smithfield, Tyson or anyone else is going to check workers for proof of citizenship or a green card before they approve them getting the vaccine.

My take: Ricketts was clumsily trying to evade what he undoubtedly saw as a “gotcha” question. If he had acknowledged that yes, some of the meat workers who receive the vaccine will probably be undocumented, he would have opened himself up to headlines like “Nebraska Gov Puts Illegals Ahead of Real Americans.” So he tried to blandly put the onus back on the companies that hire the “illegals” in the first place.

Which is actually where it belongs.

Oh, and for anyone genuinely offended that an “illegal” might get the vaccine before he or she does: Take your complaint to the nearest meat plant. They’re probably hiring.