“We Are Home” Event Shares Stories, Support for Positive Immigration Laws

***For Immediate Release***
Friday, April 9, 2021

Contact, James Goddard
Programs Senior Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Mobile: (402) 570-9462
Email: jgoddard@neappleseed.org

“We Are Home” Event Shares Stories, Support for Positive Immigration Laws

The Nebraska leg of the “Relay Across America” brings together statewide community members to share their stories and call for positive immigration laws

Nebraska — On Friday, April 9, Nebraskans from across the state gathered to share their stories and what positive immigration laws would mean for local communities. From Scottsbluff to South Sioux City, immigrant Nebraskans are lights in our families and communities. It’s time for full inclusion of longtime family members and community members.

The “Relay Across America” arrives in Nebraska today with Kansas passing the torch to Nebraska as part of a nationwide relay of stories and support for positive immigration laws. The relay connects communities throughout the nation in calling on Congress to pass long-overdue, positive immigration laws that create a way for longtime community members to apply for residency and citizenship.

Find the full stories shared today in this stories gallery, where additional Nebraska stories will continue to be added in the coming months. The stories are also available on the We Are Home website, together with other tools for sharing stories and support.

Olga Guevara, Executive Director of Unity in Action (South Sioux City)

“Our home is Siouxland. Immigrants in our community come from all over the world and students from Siouxland community schools currently speak a total of 54 different languages. Immigrant families make our communities vibrant and prosperous through entrepreneurship and job opportunities. Today I am happy to showcase one of our many different stories of immigrants who have come to live and work in Siouxland.

This is Plinio Magaña’s story: ‘DACA has completely changed my life. Thanks to DACA, I could get a full-time job, and I could save for college. I now have a BA in business administration; this allows me to give back to my community. I can proudly say I was the first in my family to graduate from a four-year college.’”

Cleofes Sarmiento, Temporary Protected Status resident and UNMC researcher (Omaha):

“I’m from the small town of Wakefield, Nebraska [where] I attended preschool all the way up to graduation from Wakefield High School. Now, having grown up in a small town, I absolutely loved it. I loved running to the swimming pool in the summer, then going to my little league practice….I am now fortunate to be a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center….I’m often asked why I don’t simply become a citizen, and I thought that as time went on it would become easier to explain why I can’t do that, but it simply gets harder, and I do have a constant fear that I will one day be asked to leave and go to a country that I do not recognize and I do not consider home. If I’m able to continue – complete my school work here – this provides me with the means of helping the community, the state, and the country that provided me with those very opportunities.”

Katherine Lopez, Communications Director of Centro Hispano (Columbus):

“In rural Nebraska there are immigrant families who live in uncertainty, so we ask Congress to pass positive immigration laws that keep families together and our rural communities strong. Nothing speaks more to the positive immigration laws we need than the stories of local community members.”

Valeria Rodriguez, Executive Director of Empowering Families (Scottsbluff):

“Scottsbluff is my home, it has been my home for the past 21 years, since my family and I immigrated from Mexico. Just like it’s my home, it is the home of many many other immigrant families. I am privileged to be a naturalized US citizen; however, for many of our neighbors and community members that is not an opportunity they have due to our outdated immigration laws. That is why we are here today, to call for positive immigration laws that provide a pathway towards citizenship for our Scottsbluff community members and for the nearly 11.5 million undocumented Americans.”

Raul Arcos, representative of SOMOSgi (Grand Island):

“I am a DACA recipient. I live in Grand Island. I have lived in NE for almost 30 years. To me DACA changed my life completely. It has allowed me to work and also to help others. Part of the work I do now — I work for a nonprofit — is I help businesses, including during this past year with COVID 19.  Positive immigration laws would positively impact people in our communities and bring more cohesiveness to our communities.”

Joseline Reyna, DACA resident and nonprofit professional (Grand Island)

“I’ve been here for 16 years and it still feels like an uncertainty about whether I will be able to renew my work permit. I remember the last time when I renewed my DACA, I went to go get the money order, and the lady helping me asked if it was for rent or bills, and I told her it was for a work permit. And she was so confused that I had to pay $500 every two years for a work permit, and she asked is there anything you can do or something else you can apply for? And I told her unfortunately our immigration laws are so outdated that there’s no pathway to citizenship. That’s why I am looking forward to the Dream & Promise Act because my goal is one day I can become a US citizen, so I can be able to vote and to continue giving back to my community.”

Geraldine Margarita Flores, Columbus community member:

“It’s been a year since my husband has been separated from his kids and myself. I was born and raised in California. We moved to Nebraska at the age of 12. This is my home, this is all I know….Having a relationship with somebody going through this, it’s heartbreaking because you don’t know what’s going to happen to them on a daily basis.”

This is a year with several important opportunities for Congress to pass positive laws that will create stability for local families and communities. Because of outdated laws, many immigrant Nebraskans and whole communities family members, friends, employers live with uncertainty and family separation. That harm is unnecessary and would be fixed by some of the positive proposals before Congress, such as the Dream & Promise Act, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, the U.S. Citizenship Act, and others.


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