Young Nebraska immigration advocates ask Rep. Jeff Fortenberry “Keep our Nebraska families together.”

IMG_0696One of the most damaging consequences of our outdated immigration system is the havoc it wreaks on families.  Nationwide, an estimated 4.5 million children who are U.S. citizens have a parent without immigration papers, including thousands here in Nebraska.

Today, Nebraska families, youth, and faith leaders delivered children’s drawings and constituent postcards calling on Rep. Jeff Fortenberry to support common-sense immigration laws with a clear and attainable path to citizenship for aspiring Americans in order to keep Nebraska families together.

“Our long-out-of-date immigration laws needlessly separate parents and kids, husbands and wives,” said Brenda Maldonado, a student studying at Nebraska Wesleyan University who grew up in Sargent, Nebraska.  “None of us is whole without our families. And our current laws do serious harm to Nebraska families and our future.”

“We are here today with the voices of Nebraska’s youth and families because we know something is wrong. We also know it can be fixed,” said Sheila Soto, a mother and student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Tell me, how are we supposed to tell our 2-year-old brother why our mother isn’t coming home today? How do we explain to our teacher we want to continue towards success but can’t handle our own overwhelming sadness?”

IMG_0692Soto continued: “Tearing our families apart breaks our hearts, alters our dreams, destroys our sense of security, and changes our view of the world.”

“Families are the basic unit of strong communities.  Today thousands of families are separated by our broken immigration system because of outdated laws,” said Marilyn Mecham, Executive Director of Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska. “We are calling upon our members of Congress to recognize the importance of family unification and to create common-sense immigration laws that mitigate the devastating effects of deportation.”

An online album of the children’s drawings and photos of Wednesday’s event can be viewed here.  High-quality images may be obtained by contacting Nebraska Appleseed Communications Director Jeff Sheldon at (402) 438-8853 or email

Watch video of Wednesday’s press conference speakers

Brenda Maldonado

Sheila Soto

David Pacheco

At current rates, more than 400 U.S. citizen children per day have a parent taken away from them by detention and deportation.

Research shows children’s and family health are endangered by our current immigration policies that break families apart or leave families living in fear of separation.  According to a recent Human Impact Partners report Family Unity, Family Health: How Family-Focused Immigration Reform Will Mean Better Health for Children and Families”:

  • Children are more likely to suffer physical and emotional health problems and not do as well in school when separated from their parents or when living with the daily fear of separation.
  • Children can be plunged into poverty when a parent who brings in an income is detained or deported. Family separation also takes an enormous toll on the other parent.
  • The trauma of actual separation – or simply just the fear of it – can really imprint on a young child’s brain. This can result in what researchers at Harvard call toxic stress response.  It’s clear that effects of immigration policy matter not just to children’s health today, but pose risks to their health as adolescents and adults far into the future.

Families and local leaders from around Nebraska are visiting the state’s Representatives’ offices this month, delivering postcards, drawings, and banners from Nebraskans who want common-sense immigration laws with a clear process for citizenship that keeps our families and communities strong.


For further interview requests, contact Nebraska Appleseed Communications Director Jeff Sheldon at (402) 438-8853 or email

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