OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and 10 other Republican governors are headed to Texas Wednesday to push President Joe Biden to respond more forcefully to migrants trying to cross into the U.S. there.
But Nebraska immigrants and those who help them say the governor’s actions – including sending 32 Nebraska State Patrol troopers to Texas this summer – put thousands of Nebraskans at risk.
Local immigrants and immigrant advocates told 3 News Now Investigators that they had hoped for better treatment after four years under former President Donald Trump.
But they say many of the insults, stares and threats remain because politicians like Ricketts keep rousing anger among Republican partisans about people crossing the border.
Grand Island resident Yolanda Nuncio, says people with brown skin, and people who don’t speak English as their first language, are often singled out regardless of their legal status or whether their families, like hers, are American.
“That contributes to people being fearful, to people being terrorized, and people not sure where they’re standing and feeling unwanted in Nebraska,” she said.
The stakes are real for local immigrants and local immigrant families, including Lexington, Nebraska, resident Gladys Godinez, who was born in Guatemala.
She says she fears Latino children are hearing the message that they are not welcome and says there will be consequences. She worries many will leave the state, costing families and the economy.
Nuncio and Godinez said they were sad to see Nebraska spend around $500,000 to send state troopers to enforce Texas law and help the Border Patrol this summer near Del Rio, Texas.
3 News Now Investigators did a story this week that explored why Nebraska taxpayers have been footing a bill for that deployment that Texas appears unlikely to pay back.
“Their responsibility should be in our communities, in our state, taking care of our people and the people that live in Nebraska,” Nuncio said.
Ricketts has defended his decision to send the troopers to the border, as well as his decision to draw attention to an issue he describes as one of “national security and humanitarian” importance.
“1.3 million people have tried to cross, so far this year,” he said. “That’s going to have a huge impact on all our communities, not just in Texas, but that’s going to reach throughout the United States.”
Nuncio and Gomez say they’d rather Ricketts focus on the needs of the people at the border, including thousands of potential refugees who fled Haiti after storms battered the island nation.
Nuncio said if the state can afford to spend hundreds of thousands on sending troopers to enforce the law at the border, they should also send water, food and other supplies to help people survive.
Said Godinez: “We’re missing that piece, the human piece. Our great grandparents, you know, great-great grandparents came to Nebraska to build a better future, because they were seeking it because of violence, because of religious (persecution).”
Both say they’d like to see the temperature of our political discourse on immigration turned down.
“Everything seems to be wanting to push everything into a divisive role, extreme left, extreme right, but I believe, I see it definitely as just a humanitarian piece, where individuals are just needing help,” Godinez said. “And are we willing to help them? And the answer at this moment, the governor is saying no. But we want to say yes, because that’s definitely something we would do for our neighbor.”