House passes immigration bill, named for Omaha Officer Kerrie Orozco, for family of first responders
WASHINGTON — It’s been more than three years since a wanted fugitive’s bullet made Hector Orozco a single father.
Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco was attempting to serve a felony warrant when the fugitive opened fire, fatally shooting her.
Hector, who is from Mexico, has been left to raise their now-3-year-old daughter Olivia, along with his two children from a previous marriage, as he continues to pursue U.S. citizenship.
Hector’s attorney, Kristin Fearnow, told The World-Herald this week that the family is doing as well as can be expected now.
“They’re managing day to day,” Fearnow said. “Obviously they still miss Kerrie a lot. It’s still hard. But Hector is a very strong person.”
They got some good news Tuesday night when the House passed legislation — named for Kerrie — that would speed the immigration process for those in Hector’s position.
Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska sponsored the legislation and spoke on the House floor just before it was approved on a voice vote.
“We owe it to our first responders to ensure their family is taken care of should they pay the ultimate sacrifice of keeping our citizens safe,” Bacon said.
Residency waiting periods lead to delays in the citizenship process.
Hector, for example, must wait another three years as a lawful permanent resident before applying for citizenship.
The bill would waive the residency waiting period for the surviving family members of first responders who die in the line of duty. They still would have to meet other citizenship requirements.
“If this bill is passed he wouldn’t have to wait that time,” Fearnow said of Hector. “He could apply right away.”
Bacon noted that the legislation is patterned after protections provided to the families of those in the military.
“This bill is for Hector Orozco and all of the widows and widowers of our fallen first responders,” Bacon said. “This bill tells our law enforcement officers, our firefighters that ‘We have your back.’ ”
The Omaha congressman thanked those who worked on the bill, including the man he beat in 2016, former Rep. Brad Ashford who first introduced a similar bill last session.
Bacon hopes that the Senate passes the legislation before the end of the year, but he’ll need to get someone to carry the bill in that chamber.
One possibility is Sen. Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Nebraskans remember Officer Orozco for her courage and sacrifice,” Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said in a statement to The World-Herald. “Senator Sasse is thoroughly reviewing this.”
While Hector is a private person who doesn’t like being in the spotlight, Fearnow said the outpouring of love and support from the community that followed Kerrie’s death touched him.
He has checked in periodically on the bill’s progress, she said, and not just because of the impact on his own status.
“That is secondary to just having that path and that being part of Kerrie’s legacy,” she said. “That means a lot to him.”