‘We need to come together’: Political leaders react to Nebraska immigration arrests

August 11, 2018

This week’s federal arrests in Nebraska attracted comments from political leaders and candidates at a Chamber of Commerce economic forum Thursday at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum near Ashland.

Among their comments:

Rep. Don Bacon: “Obviously, you have to have a heart for the individuals involved that are trying to make a living and take care of their families, but on the other hand you have other businesses that are trying to do it right and they’re being undercut by lower salaries from their competitors. ... You also have to have a heart for the people that are trying to do it right. We need to come together and compromise. Yesterday is a reflection of a Congress that couldn’t find compromise.”

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer: “I believe that we have to have our laws followed in a uniform manner, also in a respectful manner. It’s obvious with Nebraska having an unemployment rate below 3 percent, our businesses need to have workers. I’ve said all along we need to have a secure border, but we need to look at our legal immigration system. We need to look at the guest worker system that we have in place so that we can truly meet the needs of our country.”

[Read more: Raids rattle O’Neill: Workers detained as feds target alleged conspiracy to exploit illegal labor ]

Bob Krist, Democratic candidate for governor: “On the heels of what’s happened with the separation of families, you have to ask yourself, is this targeting rather than law enforcement? And is it necessary to disrupt the business flow? I’ve always said that the federal government needs to enforce our immigration laws. They’re the laws of the land. But it’s curious that it’s happening at this particular time in Nebraska. One has to wonder whether it leads into a political discussion rather than the reality of enforcement of the laws.”

Jane Raybould, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate: “There are good employers and there are bad employers. ... If those stories are true, if they were taking advantage and withholding the workers’ wages and taking a disproportionate amount, that’s very disheartening to see that happening. That again shows how immigration needs to be repaired. ... But the sad truth is, this is going to impact not only the businesses and the other people in the community in O’Neill but the other harsh reality is, we have a workforce shortage in Nebraska.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts: “At the end of the day, Nebraska businesses have to obey the law. Now we’ve got allegations that employers were in a conspiracy to bring in, smuggle in illegal immigrants, and that they were intimidating them and so forth. Obviously that has to go through the investigative process. ... Now the focus of the operation, it’s my understanding, is about the people who were smuggling, but if you came here illegally, you’re still breaking the law.”

[Read more: Family members reunited as some workers detained in federal immigration raid return to O’Neill ]

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse: “There’s going to be a compromise, comprehensive immigration reform, at some point. The problem is you have a Congress that’s really a broken institution right now. ... It’s really difficult to try to figure out what the pathway is to anything comprehensive. We’re going to need some sort of executive branch leadership to resolve these problems.”

Rep. Adrian Smith: “In the last day and a half, we’ve seen a disruption in a community, families and in businesses, and I would hope that we can ... get this done so that we don’t see disruptions when the law is enforced. We need enforceable law. We need to uphold the rule of law and also acknowledge the realities of the immigration that’s out there. ... It has gone on far too long.”

Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb: “Our rural communities stand with families torn apart from unnecessary ICE raids ordered by Trump and aided by Gov. Ricketts. Our kids play together. We share meals together. The agricultural economy relies on immigrant labor. Instead of ripping families and businesses apart, we ask our entire federal delegation and statewide elected officials to do the right thing and ensure workers’ path to citizenship is faster and cuts through the red tape so our small towns can continue to thrive and our ag economy can grow.”

[Read more: 11 people connected to immigration raids in Nebraska appear in federal court ]

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