Interfaith candlelight vigil brings Nebraskans together to call for updated immigration laws

Rabbi Aryeh Azriel lights a menorah at a candlelight vigil on Dec. 3, 2013.  The vigil was held on the 7th night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Rabbi Aryeh Azriel lights a menorah at a candlelight vigil on Dec. 3, 2013. The vigil was held on the 7th night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Tuesday evening, a crowd of around 100 faith, family, and community leaders joined immigration reform supporters for a candlelight vigil outside the Roman Hruska Federal Courthouse in downtown Omaha to support common-sense U.S. immigration laws being passed before the end of the year.

The candlelight vigil, held in conjunction with the 7th night of Hanukkah, was held to lift up Nebraska families who are separated by outdated immigration laws and to show Nebraska’s U.S. House of Representatives members that Nebraskans want updated immigration laws passed yet this year that will stop the needless separation that affects so many Nebraska families this holiday season.

Candlelight vigil for new Immigration Laws from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

This week, the Fast for Families continued in Washington D.C., where supporters of reform have abstained from food on the National Mall since November 12, while groups nationwide announced fasts and vigils across the country urging House action.

“Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger among us,” said Jossy Rogers of Catholic Charities.  “Now, Congress has an opportunity to create a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants for whom the system is now inaccessible and prohibitive.  If we fail to create an accessible pathway to citizenship, a permanent underclass of people will remain—people who have come to know and love the United States as their home. We must act now to uphold the dignity of those who aspire for citizenship and stop the devastating impact and family separation created by our current, outdated system.”

“It is urgent that we move forward on both moral and practical grounds,” said Rabbi Aryeh Azriel. “As community members we light a candle this evening in a spirit of hope and common-sense that our members of Congress will move quickly to create immigration laws we can once again be proud of.”

Other speakers at the vigil included:

  • Fr. Mike Eckley –  St. Pius X Catholic Parish
  • Manape LaMere – Dakota and Ho-Chunk Nations

This vigil is part of a series of events that have shown Nebraska’s House members that Nebraskans passionately support passing updated immigration laws before the end of the year.  Recent data shows more than 60 percent of Americans — regardless of political affiliation — support a pathway to citizenship.

The U.S. Senate passed a historic, bipartisan immigration bill with a path to citizenship in June, and now, it is the House’s turn to act.  This prayer vigil is held in the hope our U.S. House Representatives show leadership to fix this outdated system, protect the sanctity of families, strengthen the economy, and lay out a stronger future for our state.

Tuesday’s vigil was co-sponsored by: Anti-Defamation League Plains States Region | Black Men United | Catholic Charities | Creighton Center for Service and Justice | Heartland Workers Center | Inclusive Communities | Justice for Our Neighbors | Latino Center of the Midlands | League of Women Voters | Malcolm X Memorial Foundation | National Council of Jewish Women (Omaha) | Nebraska ACLU | Nebraska Appleseed | Nebraska Restaurant Association | Nebraskans for Peace | Omaha Together One Community | Rabbi Azriel | Sisters of Mercy West-Midwest Community | and many others.

Previous recent vigils calling for modernizing our immigration system have been held outside Rep. Lee Terry’s office in Omaha, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s office in Lincoln, and Rep. Adrian Smith’s office in Grand Island.

More than 40 diverse Nebraska organizations representing thousands of Nebraskans from business, labor, faith, civil rights, and children’s and families’ perspectives have called for reform this year, including numerous statewide events and roundtables during the August recess and a march of 2,000 Nebraskans on October 12.

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