O’Neill community members fear what is to come after ICE raids

Local News

After an immigration raid in O’Neill, Nebraska, families have found what they believe is a safe haven. Many stayed over night in a local church, too afraid to go home. 

Now starts the process of ‘what’s next?’

“When I heard about the raid I was just thinking, please, I hope they didn’t catch my mom or my dad,” said 15-year-old O’Neill resident Thomas Garcia, “and now that my mom can’t work anymore… I don’t know… and my dad is a Pastor and he can’t work either. I don’t know what else I have. It’s either the government helps us or it’s on me now.”

Garcia fears that he may need to drop out of school and give up his dreams of a better life in order to keep his family together. This is an issue that has pulled on the heart strings of former League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) president Hector Flores.

“It’s a difficult family situation that the children are put in,” Flores said. “It’s just like the DACA kids that were brought here by their parents, you know when they were really young. They didn’t commit a crime by coming here. They had no choice, their parents brought them here. They’re as American as apple pie, and you, and I.”

“Unfortunately they were not prepared for this crisis,” said LULAC volunteer Julie Contreras, “There were children without their parents. There are children who haven’t slept all night because they’re in fear that if they fall asleep immigration will come into their home and take their families.” 

The ultimate goal of the organization is comprehensive immigration reform, but for now, they’re just trying to keep children with their families.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Contreras. “We feel that the only thing that these individuals are guilty of is coming here for a better life. As Latin American Citizens, we believe in protecting our sovereign nation, but we do not believe that it should be at the cost of separation of families.”

“We need to open the conscience of America,” said Flores, “Is this the America that we want?”

This is a reality that weighs heavily on the hearts of many immigrant families.

“I don’t want them to separate any of us because if they do they’re going to separate each one of us to different families and I’m never going to see my two year old brother ever again,” says Garcia. 
 

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