A variety of Nebraska organizations rallied in Omaha on Thursday in support of the Senate's immigration bill.
More than 40 groups, including social justice, religious, agriculture, food and civil rights organizations, held signs in favor of immigration changes outside the Hruska Federal Courthouse.
“Thousands of Nebraskans want immigration reform that reflects our values, keeps families united and helps our economy and communities flourish,” Darcy Tromanhauser, director of Nebraska Appleseed's immigration and communities program, said at the rally. “The Senate's bipartisan bill is a historic opportunity to modernize our antiquated laws.”
Omar Gutierrez, who works for the Omaha Archdiocese, said he supported “just and compassionate” immigration reform.
“I come as somebody who sympathizes with those who are concerned about border security and national debt and economics and unemployment,” he said. “But I come as someone who knows the church says we can't let those fears trump the fundamental rights to human life, to dignity, to marriage and to family.”
Viridiana Almanza, who works for DREAMers Project Coalition, which works to educate and advocate for immigrant youths, also spoke. Her parents immigrated with her to Grand Island from Mexico when she was a girl.
She said the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act allowed her family to legally live in the United States while they applied to become citizens. Almanza and her parents became citizens in the early 2000s.
Her family moved to Nebraska because of job and education opportunities, Almanza said. As a 23-year-old college graduate, she said, she's proud to be an American and a Nebraskan but doesn't understand why some Nebraskans don't welcome immigration changes.
“When we talk about immigration reform, I think a lot of people forget the personal stories and they focus more on other issues,” she said. “Those sentiments don't align with Nebraska values.”