LINCOLN — Five Nebraska state senators called on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform during a press conference Wednesday at the State Capitol.
The senators voiced support for a non-binding legislative resolution that encourages Nebraska’s congressional delegation to pass legislation similar to the reform bill approved last year by the Senate. That bill calls for improved border security while allowing the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally.
“Immigration reform is something Nebraska needs,” said Sen. John Wightman of Lexington, sponsor of Legislative Resolution 399.
His resolution, which will be heard later in the dayby the Judiciary Committee, has 14 co-sponsors.
After the press conference, Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont said he likely will vote against the resolution. Before he recently ended a campaign for the Republican nomination for governor, Janssen said the “vast majority” of people he met opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“When they’re talking immigration reform, they’ve got to talk first about border security,” he said.
House Republican leaders released a white paper for immigration reform last week that was heavy on enforcement measures but did not include a pathway to citizenship for people already in the country illegally.
Wightman and others said the economic and cultural benefits that immigrants provide to the state outweigh the challenges they create. A coalition of Nebraska civic, business, labor, agriculture and religious groups support reform efforts to lessen those challenges, said Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha.
A total of 31 states have passed resolutions in support immigration reform, said Wightman, a Republican who represents a community where more than half of the residents are Latino. He was joined at the press conference by fellow Republican Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, along with three Democrats: Nordquist, Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha and Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha.
Ashford, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he hopes the resolution will quickly advance to the floor, where it should produce a spirited debate.