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Updated tweets on Legislative hearing to create Arizona-style immigration law

March 2, 2011

PhotoSen. Brad Ashford listens to testimony.

Tweets by Courtney Pitts, photo by Kyle Bruggeman

Hassebrook: Rural Nebraska is changing.

Hassebrook: For many of our rural communities, immigrants have helped revitalize the eroding population.

NU Regent Chuck Hassebrook next to testify. LB48 He works for Center of Rural Affairs.

McGill: Why don’t you pay more attention to immigration status? Schmader of OPD: We have few resources.

Todd Schmader from Omaha PD says the police do not currently check immigration status. They usually have no idea when dealing with crimes.

David Brown, immigration attorney, said he’s had cases where ICE has held ppl with “fraudulent” id only to find they were here legally.

Jones: What does an immigrant look like in a country where people are naturalized citizens or ancestors were immigrants?

Dr. Jeanette Jones, social action chair of delta sigma theta is now speaking. LB48 will increase profiling and more sundown towns in NE.

Dr. Jeanette Jones, social action chair of delta sigma theta is now speaking. LB48 will increase profiling and more sundown towns in NE

Lanford: Is there anyway to get reasonable suspicion in LB48 w/o including race or language? Piester: Yes. Race and language not sufficient.

Lanford asks about reasonable suspicion. Piester: It is more than a hunch, but less than probable cause.

Piester: I see no reason to subjugate Nebraska cities and officers to undergo such litigation. These opinions are not of his court, he adds.

Judge David Piester is speaking next. This bill would have to be defended in court. Police officers could be sued he says.

Michael Noland from Fremont talks about the the costs of defending laws like LB48 and the Fremont Ordinance.

James: We need to support victims of crimes despite status. Ppl who have suffered from these acts are not aliens.

James: I’ve had 2 immigrant women who have come forward to ask for help. One was questioned about her immigration status.

James: LB48 will strain the relationship between undocumented people and police. Cites case of a family afraid to cooperate in murder case.

S. A. Mora James, a civil rights attorney in LNK, is speaking opposed to LB48.

Now onto opponents of LB48 in the Nebraska legislature judiciary committee hearing.

Carl Schaffer: When you try to call ICE as a citizen you are put through Homeland Security then FOIA office & told to write a letter.

Barges: I applaud Sen. Janssen for having the guts to do this. Who’s going to stand up for Nebraskans?

Mike Barges is the next speaker. He says the bill mirrors federal law and we all have a stake in illegal immigration.

Kagen: Anchor babies born to illegal immigrants are given permanent residency. They suffer from drug-resistant strains of TB.

The judiciary committee had no questions for Smith. Next speaker is Doug Kagen of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom.

Smith: LB48 will deter illegal immigration in Nebraska. It will protect Nebraska’s jobs and benefits.

Smith: If someone is pulled over and doesn’t speak English that would be a concern. How do they read our signs?

Susan Smith of the Nebraska Advisory Group is now speaking in favor of #LB48.

Freudenburg: The absence of a driver’s license would not be a reasonable suspicion alone.

Freudenburg tells Sen. Landford that the command of the English language would be a consideration for reasonable suspicion

Council: What database exists that would allow a police officer to check the status? E-verify only verifies lawful status.

Harr: Is a lack of identification part of reasonable suspicion? My concern is we’re going to be dragging children in to the police station.

Harr: What happens with a two-year-old or 12-year-old doesn’t have identification? Is being brown reasonable suspicion?

Harr asks Freudenburg, who is an attorney, if he thinks #LB48 is constitutional. He says yes.

Freudenburg: Bruning believes the issue of constitutionality is up in the air. He will defend it if there’s a suit.

John Freudenburg the bureau chief of the attorney general’s office is speaking now

Questioning of Janssen is over. Now hearing from proponents of the bill.

Janssen: The federal government needs to enforce immigration laws. They get paid more than us.

Janssen’s news conference may not starting any time soon. Committee still questioning impact on law forces and reasonable suspicion.

What’s reasonable suspicion? Janssen: Ex. could be an unlicensed vehicle, who knows where they are going, there are too many ppl in the car.

Ashford: What is in the laundry list of reasonable suspicions?

Sen. Brad Ashford: Under your bill if officers suspect someone they pick up for a traffic ticket is undocumented what would the officer do?

Harr: Tell me where it says it will be detained? I’m not trying to play gotcha.

Janssen: If a person is here illegally they will be detained and ICE will be notified. Will be added to the bill if it’s not in there now.

Harr: Points out that #LB48 doesn’t say a suspected illegal immigrant would be detained.

Harr: What happens to witnesses who come forward and there’s reasonable suspicion they’re undocumented?

Harr: If a woman came forward to report sexual assault & didn’t have documents, would she be detained? Janssen not sure.

Sen. Burke Harr is now questioning Sen. Janssen and his bill LB48.

Council: Law enforcement officials know where their financial resource should be going.

Council tells Janssen she’s troubled by Janssen’s statements about law enforcement officials “shirking their duties” b/c they oppose LB48.

Council: ICE focuses and prioritizes deportation efforts on illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes

Council: You (Janssen) do nothing to criminalize behavior of the employers who provide the primary reason ppl enter the country illegally.

Council: All of us are frustrated that the fed govt has failed to enact immigration reform but state doesn’t have authority.

Sen. Brenda Council: Provide me with one example where the gov. has issued sanctions that require the police to engage in racial profiling.

Janssen: The federal government should be paying for this, but we are stuck with the costs

Sen. Colby Coash: Where is our closest federal ICE facility? Janssen said he assumes Omaha. Does anyone know if this is correct?

Janssen says he’s not concerned about economic impact

McGill: Racial profiling does take place. There are people who will leave #Nebraska if (#LB48) passes. It will impact economy.

McGill: Our budget is already tight enough in Lincoln. If my best friend who is a latina is pulled over will she be asked for papers?

Sen. Amanda McGill asks Janssen about the costs of detaining illegal immigrants, cites story about Lincoln Police Chief.

Janssen: “Waiting for congress to act is unrealistic.

Janssen: As of 2006 the U.S. accepts more immigrants than any other nation.

Janssen: “If racial profiling occurs due to #LB48 we would know about it and stop it.

Janssen’s intro: LB48 would prohibit sanctuary cities and peace officers would determine status if reasonable suspicion.

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Anti Arizona-style immigration law rally held in Nebraska

January 27, 2011


Photo by Kyle Bruggeman
Story by Ellen Hirst

More than 300 people gathered on the sun-splashed steps of the Capitol Building Thursday to make their case in a unified chorus: There’s no place for Arizona-style laws in Nebraska.

They came to protest a controversial bill – LB48 – modeled after a similar one in Arizona. Some protesters came during their noon lunch breaks, while others drove from Omaha, Grand Island and Kearney flashing colorful, handmade signs like “Reform, Not Racism” and “God’s LOVE has no borders.”

Nebraska’s immigration bill, now scheduled for a March 2 judiciary committee hearing, would require police who stop or arrest someone to check whether that person is in the country legally – if the officer reasonably suspected otherwise.

Thursday’s speakers raised concerns about what they said were the potential social, economic and safety implications posed by LB48.

Alan Potash, with Anti-Defamation League Great Plains Region, said the extra responsibilities the law would place on local and state law enforcement officers would jeopardize the safety of communities. It would create a “chilling effect,” deterring even legal immigrants from wanting to cooperate with police.

A number of others questioned whether the bill is constitutional. Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, chief sponsor of the bill, and Attorney General Jon Burning, who helped craft the some of the language, are confident the bill will pass constitutional muster.

But for the Rev. Ann B. Sherer-Simpson, resident bishop of Nebraska United Methodist Church, this law isn’t about constitutionality – it’s about vulnerability.

“God cares for the vulnerable among us. We are making whole classes of persons more vulnerable,” she said in a statement read by the Rev. David Lux, senior pastor for St. Paul United Methodist Church.

The issue of “anchor babies” also became a rally topic. In the past, Sen. Janssen has used that term to describe children born to illegal immigrants in the United States. He has said this provides incentives for people to enter the country illegally.

Frank LaMere of Omaha, a Winnebago Tribe member, took that issue head on. He said that Native Americans and Hispanics are brothers and sisters in the fight for equal opportunity.

“I am amazed by the discussion and ridicule he has engendered about ‘anchor babies’ who lived, grew and flourished on lands stolen from the Omaha, the Otoe and the Pawnee who are now displaced,” LaMere said to an outburst of applause.

Surrounding LaMere and the other speakers were the faces of ethnically diverse people standing beneath a tile-blue sky. Among the faces were:

Esther Palma. At 86, she could have stayed in the comfort of her Omaha home Thursday. Instead, she found herself standing on the cold Capitol steps.

Born and raised in Omaha, Palma said it was her mother who emigrated from Mexico. Mistaken as an immigrant for the majority of her life, Esther said she often found herself fighting to protect her four children from discrimination. When people asked why she went to school meetings, she said she always replied: “I’m here to defend my kids because they’ve got people against them, because they’re Mexican.”

Dr. Mario Sanchez skipped his family medical practice to be at the UNITY rally.  A U.S. resident for more than 20 years, Sanchez emigrated from Lima, Peru. Although he is opposed to LB48 overall, he nevertheless said he sees a silver lining in the bill.

“To me, this is the best thing that could have happened in the United States to Latinos because they have awakened a lot of Latinos to understand that if we don’t become organized and we don’t become involved in politics…we’re doomed,” said Sanchez.

Karise Carillo and her friends walked to the rally from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, some with heavy backpacks. About 20 people from the Mexican American Student Association and other groups based in the The Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center met up at the event.

Carillo said LB48 would hit home for MASA members, many of whom are from South Sioux City, Grand Island and other towns with large Hispanic populations.

“It affects everybody on a personal level because this would affect their home communities greatly,” she said. “But then also it affects MASA members on a personal level because of the way we look, the language that we speak, and we frankly don’t want to be discriminated as such by the law.”

Oscar Castaneda, a Guatemalan immigrant, said he wouldn’t leave the state if LB48 passes.

“I’m going to keep fighting for my community until this is resolved,” said the Omaha resident, who is a leader in Pixan Ixim, an organization of ethnic Mayans in South Omaha.  If LB48 passes, “It’s going to cause a social disaster, a familial disaster … family breakup,” he said. “It affects us all, both Hispanics and Americans.”

Genoveva Sanchez emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Nebraska 25 years ago, when she was 17. She said she had always felt welcome in Nebraska until the state began considering Arizona-style immigration laws.

“I’m afraid Hispanic people will leave, because I’m afraid they’ll be harassing us,” Sanchez said. “This is the first time I have felt that people are really looking at me.”

Tom Scherer wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: “I’m an immigrant.”

The pale-skinned, 77-year-old retired educator emigrated from Ontario, Canada.  He and his wife said they receive e-mails from those who support the law – a law Bonnie Scherer said could hurt her adopted hometown.

“Lincoln really has a good reputation nationwide that we are a place that welcomes people from other countries,” she said.  “I value that and I don’t want to see anything damage that.”

Also contributing to this story were Rachel Albin, Asha Anchan and John Schreier.




Artist Ben Jones (right) brought his own form of protest to the rally.

Photos by Kyle Bruggeman

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