The Lincoln City Council will be sending a letter signed by all council members — three Republicans and four Democrats — asking their congressional representatives to protect the so-called "'Dreamers' from deportation.”
The letter substituted for a similar resolution that likely would have passed by a 4-3 partisan vote.
But the letter didn’t satisfy about a dozen people attending Monday's council meeting. They held up signs saying “Dreamers deserve a vote.”
"Dreamers" is the term often used for young adults whose parents brought them to the country illegally when they were children.
President Donald Trump has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides them safety from deportation.
Two of the audience members, Lincoln immigration attorney Shirl Mora James and unsuccessful city council candidate Lou Braatz, shouted at the council during the council's discussion of the letter and after a vote to withdraw the resolution.
Council vice chair Cyndi Lamm repeatedly reminded the two the council does not allow demonstrations during meetings.
James, who shouted “No vote for Dreamers; no representation” as she walked out of the council chambers, later explained why she felt a resolution, even one with a split vote, was better than a letter.
James said anyone can write a letter and supporters have been writing letters to their congressional representatives. However, "Dreamers" need a sense of security. They need to know that the City Council supports them, she said.
Council members "don’t have the guts to vote this up or down,” she said.
Only councilwoman Jane Raybould, who brought the resolution to the council and who is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, voted against withdrawing the resolution.
It is imperative that council members, as leaders, provide "direct and insightful feedback" so the congressional delegation knows "what matters to our constituents."
A letter is a weaker message, she said.
Raybould did sign the letter after the meeting.
Council Chair Bennie Shobe, who helped gather support from council members for the letter, acknowledged that not everyone was happy with the decision to use a unanimous letter rather than a resolution.
“I understand their passion,” Shobe said. “They feel like I betrayed them and let them down."
Shobe, who co-sponsored the resolution, said he didn’t give supporters exactly what they wanted. However, the council did give them a symbolic gesture that all council members care about the “Dreamers.”
“The process worked,” he said.
Assistant City Attorney Don Taute said the letter would be part of the council's public record, though it is not a formal action of the council.
Republican Cyndi Lamm said she believes the letter is a nice compromise. It is a vehicle that shows the council does have concerns for those in the local community without opening the gates to requests for other resolutions on federal issues, she said.
Carl Eskridge, a Democrat, said he felt that a letter signed by all council members, including the Republicans, would carry more weight with the Nebraska congressional delegation, who are all Republicans, than a resolution passed by only the Democrats on the council.