Lincoln leaders hold prayer vigil for updated immigration laws

This table, with the head place setting left empty, symbolized Nebraska families torn apart by outdated immigration laws.

This table, with the head place setting left empty, symbolized Nebraska families torn apart by outdated immigration laws.

As the holiday season approaches, Lincoln-area faith, youth, civil rights, and family leaders came together outside Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s office today for a prayer vigil expressing the urgency of updating federal immigration laws this year to stop the separation of Nebraska families.

The group gathered around a dinner table with one place setting missing to symbolize the many Nebraska families that are separated by the current laws. As the holiday season approaches, participants recognized the many loved ones who are missing each day at family meals in Nebraska because of long out-of-date immigration policies.

“As people of color, we have a responsibility to stand up for social justice whenever it is violated.  That is why the NAACP has joined other civil rights and human rights organizations to support a comprehensive immigration reform,” said Jareldine Mays, President of NAACP, Lincoln Branch.  “Across the country, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in a permanent, second-class status.  At current rates of deportation, more than 400 U.S.-citizen children per day have a parent taken away from them by detention or deportation.  It is important to pass common-sense immigration laws that prevent parents who are immigrants from being deported and leaving children alone.”

Mays, a retired teacher, pointed out these policies have proven to be harmful for children’s mental, physical, and behavioral health.

At the vigil, attendees from NAACP, League of Women Voters, Nebraskans For Peace, and other Lincoln community members prayed for Nebraska families that have been split apart because of outdated immigration policies.

“My heart aches to see how strong family bonds are shattered due to the vulnerability the current, outdated system creates,” said Sheila Soto, 21, a student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.  “It is agonizing to see my friends’ high hopes and dreams for a higher education crumble to the ground because of their residential status.  No one should be deprived of an education because of incomprehensible laws.  I have seen my friends grow as leaders in schools and potential leaders in the community.  Undocumented students have larger obstacles, but the same determination, passion and drive.  Together we pray for a brighter future for these students and their families.”

Lincoln leaders pray for updated immigration laws from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

This is part of a series of recent events to show all of Nebraska’s House members that Nebraskans want updated immigration laws passed in 2013.

On November 7, Columbus faith and youth leaders held a press conference urging Rep. Fortenberry to keep families together by supporting a new immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans.  On the same day, Omaha area faith leaders joined a prayer vigil outside Rep. Lee Terry’s office in support of fixing the immigration system.

In addition, Grand Island community members held a vigil on October 21, dozens of events took place statewide during August recess, and on October 12, more than 40 Nebraska organizations and 2,000 Nebraskans held a families’ march and rally for common-sense immigration laws.

Nebraska’s House members have the opportunity to support a new bill that includes a clear process for citizenship and keeps families together.  H.R. 15 was introduced in the House in October and has growing bipartisan support.  The U.S. Senate passed its own common-sense bill in June, S. 744.


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