COLUMBUS — Brother Damian Cayetano of Schuyler wants “common sense” to prevail in keeping Nebraska families together as the GOP-controlled House takes up legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.
That’s the message the Benedictine monk from St. Benedict’s Center hoped to deliver to 1st District Rep. Jeff Fortenberry during Thursday’s “Keep Nebraska Families Together” rally in Frankfort Square.
“We must encourage our legislators to help pass common-sense immigration policies that provide a clearly defined earned path to citizenship that will keep Nebraska families together,” Cayetano said while addressing about 20 immigration reform supporters at the noon rally.
The Senate has already passed a comprehensive immigration reform overhaul that would bolster the nation’s border security and offer a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally.
President Barack Obama this week urged the House to act on the issue before the end of the year. Many House Republicans have said they prefer a piecemeal approach to revamping the nation’s immigration framework.
Cayetano is the director of the Schuyler center’s program El Puente, a ministry that provides legal and spiritual resources to the immigrant community.
He is a native of the Philippines who immigrated to the United States with his family as a child and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 14. The monk grew up in California and Virginia.
“I now count myself as a proud Husker,” Cayetano told the rally audience, noting that Nebraskans have deeply rooted values manifest in the example of “countless families and the parents” who attempt to provide a meaningful life for their children.
Cayetano, who has served at the Schuyler center for seven years, said he believes Fortenberry has a “good understanding” of how the lives of Nebraska children and their families are affected by the nation’s immigration policies.
“Many families in Schuyler are affected by the policies,” he said. “I encourage (Fortenberry) to take his part in reforming laws and policies to bring about a more humane and just immigration system in our country.”
Other rally speakers, including local businessman Fernando Lopez and Columbus High School junior Stephany Oliva, said the nation’s current immigration system breaks apart families and causes untold amounts of damage when parents and children are separated.
Many of the children of these immigrant families were born in this country, Oliva said. “I have faith that my family is going to stay together.”
Thursday’s rally was organized by Centro Hispano Comunitario, an immigration reform group that also planned to deliver postcards to Fortenberry signed by Nebraskans who back a pathway to citizenship.
Rally supporters also carried a banner featuring pictures hand-drawn by Nebraska children urging lawmakers and others to keep Nebraska families together.