GI woman advocates for immigration reform, understanding

Yolanda Chavez Nuncio described her experiences working with undocumented immigrants at the U.S. - Mexico border at the United Congregational Church of Grand Island Sunday for their "Immigration Sunday" service. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A Grand Island woman is sharing her experiences working with undocumented immigrants, and hopes they'll inspire a more welcoming community.

Yolanda Chavez Nuncio spoke at the United Congregational Church of Grand Island Sunday for their "Immigration Sunday" service.

Nuncio described her experiences volunteering with the Casa Alitas program, which is through the Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona. The organization helps migrants leaving their home countries to escape poverty and violence. Nuncio worked with undocumented immigrants at the U.S. - Mexico border who were seeking asylum.

"Often times people think that people that come from other countries maybe don't want to follow the rules, and don't want to live like "Americans" live. We have to be able to share, and to educate and to make sure that people are welcomed here," Nuncio said.

Nuncio said she thinks there are some great programs set up in Grand Island to help migrants adjust to life in the U.S. She said the Multicultural Coalition, the Literacy Council and the Immigration Legal Center help provide citizenship and literacy classes to migrants, and also educate the community on how to be a more inclusive society.

But after seeing families out in the desert for days, and sometimes even weeks, trying to go to the United States, Nuncio said she wants to see changes at the federal level to make it easier for migrants to get citizenship.

"We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to be able to allow people to go through a process of becoming legalized, becoming documented and eventually working, and working hard, to become citizens," Nuncio said.

In terms of border control, Nuncio said there's always been tight security at the border, but describes it now as "military-like," which she attributes to the current administration.

But not everyone is opposed to having more security at the border.

Congressman Adrian Smith, (R) Nebraska), said in a statement there does need to be more security at the border, and backed the Trump administration for their security decisions.

After a visit to the U.S. - Mexico border earlier this month, Smith said:

"We face significant challenges on our southern border. Illegal crossings, drug smuggling and the increase in unaccompanied minors have highlighted the need for enhanced border security. The President is correct for his focus on strengthening our border. I salute and respect our Border Patrol who are on the front lines of our national security."