Saturday, an estimated 2,000 Nebraskans from across the state gathered in Omaha to urge Nebraska’s members of Congress to pass updated immigration laws in 2013 that strengthen families, businesses, communities, and the future of our state.
The “Families’ March and Rally for Dignity and Respect” was part of a nationwide push for immigration reform this week in which tens of thousands of people turned out to tell Congress now is the time to pass common-sense immigration laws with a clear and attainable path to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
Nebraska’s event included Nebraska families of all backgrounds together with leaders from a wide range of perspectives: faith, business, community, youth, labor, civil rights, children’s advocacy, and immigrant leaders.
“We need Congress and the President to take immediate action to keep families together, stop unnecessary and devastating deportations, and create fair access and a common-sense process for citizenship that aligns with our nation’s values,” said Sergio Sosa, Executive Director of Heartland Workers Center
Veterans led the march, followed by youth and families clad in Nebraska red Husker gear who marched through Omaha’s historic Old Market beginning at 10th and Pacific Streets and proceeded north, ending in Heartland of America Park. The peaceful and passionate march underscored the moral and practical urgency for updating America’s immigration laws without delay. It also highlighted Nebraska pride and the rich cultural fabric of America through live music and diverse speakers.
“We have a problem with the immigration system in this country, but the workers on our farms and construction sites, in our packing houses and our restaurants are not the cause,” said Dan Mulhall of Mulhall’s Landscaping and Nursery Center. The challenge is an antiquated system that is not capable of matching the country’s need for workers with those can do the work — and whose work in turn creates jobs for many more of us. The time to fix our outdated immigration system is now.”
“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 student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Tell me, how are we supposed to tell our two-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?”
“As African Americans in this country, our history has been that we have been denied the opportunity to vote,” said Sharif Liwaru, President of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, “Do not accept a path…that does not include the right to vote. It is citizenship with the ability to vote, and nothing else is acceptable.”
“Those who divided this continent did so only to identify stolen lands and to mark territory that they perceived as their own,” said Frank LaMere of the Winnebago Tribe. “You need not come to this struggle, hat in hand, with your heads down, asking if they would have you. Come to this struggle walking firm and forthright….Let us reform immigration policy now. Let us demand it for our families and our children.”
“If you read the scriptures, hospitality is a core value,” said Rev. Scott J. Jones, Bishop, Great Plains Area, The United Methodist Church. “My great-grandparents came from Germany to Iowa. I am the child of immigrants. And we need to remember our history. There was a time when the immigration issue in Nebraska was Swedes versus Norwegians. We have faced these issues in the past. Today, America continues to be richer and more blessed for our immigrant neighbors, and they have huge contributions to make. Let’s make it possible for them to be here legally.”
The Families’ March and Rally for Dignity and Respect echoed scenes earlier in the week where tens of thousands of people held more than 180 rallies in over 40 states calling on Congress to pass immigration laws that keep families together, strengthen our economy, and reflect our values.
This rally was a signal to Nebraska’s members of Congress that Nebraskans feel fixing our outdated immigration system must be a top priority. The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive bill to fix our outdated immigration system in June. Now the House of Representatives must take action. A bill including a path to citizenship was introduced last week in the House. More than 40 Nebraska organizations from diverse perspectives have been working together for common-sense immigration reform this year.