Nebraskans hold vigils, events to urge House action on immigration this year

The four-person dinner table contained settings for only three.  The head of the table sat empty, its absence most conspicuous.

This dinner table was set with one place empty to symbolize Nebraska families who have been separated by outdated immigration laws.The symbol was a powerful one.  Representing Nebraska families who are missing a loved one because of detention or deportation, this dinner scene was not whole, incomplete.

Thursday, Nebraskans in several cities gathered together to urge our state’s House of Representatives members to take action this year in support of families torn apart by our outdated immigration laws.

In Omaha, more than a dozen faith leaders came together with community, families, and immigration advocates for a prayer vigil outside the office of Rep. Lee Terry.  The vigil was organized by Omaha Together One Community with assistance from the Sisters of Mercy West – Midwest, Creighton Center for Service and Justice, and many others.

At the vigil, attendees prayed for families who are separated by current U.S. immigration laws and lifted up the hope Nebraska’s congressmen would support common-sense laws with a clearer process for citizenship so families can be reunited and no Nebraska family would be torn apart in the future.

A table set with one seat empty symbolized families who are missing members because of detention or deportation due to the outdated immigration system.

Watch a video of the prayer vigil and view an online photo album.

On the same day in Columbus, NE, faith and immigration advocates held a press conference organized by Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska urging Rep. Jeff Fortenberry to back a common-sense immigration law that stops the separation of Nebraska families.

Coverage from the Columbus Telegram: Immigration rally urges lawmakers to ‘keep families together’

Brother Damien Cayetano of St. Benedict’s Center in Schuyler, himself an immigrant from the Philippines, told reporters the U.S. approach to immigration policy must reflect Nebraska values of family, dignity, and compassion.

Brother Damian Cayetano speaks at a press conference in Columbus calling for updated immigration laws. Photo credit: Jim Osborn/The Columbus Telegram

Photo credit: Jim Osborn/The Columbus Telegram

“Care and concern for the family is a fundamental value that should inform our approach to immigration reform. The laws and policies of our nation should preserve the fundamental right of all people to provide a dignified life for their families through meaningful work. We must encourage our legislators to help pass common-sense immigration policies that provide a clearly defined earned path to citizenship that will help keep Nebraska families together and contribute to the economic and social welfare of our state.”

Columbus businessman Fernando Lopez spoke to the press about how his family was broken apart because of an immigration error.  Lopez was deported to Mexico and spent two years away from his family fighting his case in the courts.

“I respect the laws of the United States and share the ideology on the implementation of laws, but unfortunately, the immigration system is a dinosaur out of function to current needs,” Lopez said.  “If the system were perfect, laws would not need local, state, or federal representation.”

Grand Island residents also held a recent vigil urging action on immigration this year.

As we enter the holiday season, you too can take action to urge Nebraska’s House members to support updated immigration laws that preserve families, leading to stronger Nebraska communities.  Please consider calling or writing your congressman.

Modernizing our immigration laws and ensuring a clear and attainable process for citizenship will make sure families can remain together and no more empty places at the table.

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