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A shorter version of this letter was published in the Omaha World-Herald‘s Public Pulse section on June 2, 2019.

As the director of one of Nebraska’s community health centers that provides care in clinics located in medically underserved communities, I would like to share what I believe is a unique and hopefully helpful perspective on our country’s immigration policy reform debate.

OneWorld will be 50 years old in 2020, and we welcome all who need a health care home, doing so with an affordable sliding scale fee, and serving over 46,000 patients annually. We have had long years of experience helping immigrants, refugees and asylees who are part of our patient population. It is a blessing to have known so many who made the challenging adjustment of coming to another country and who have gone on to become our neighbors and friends.

As our country continues its debate over immigration reform, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the actual children and families who have come here for a better life, who add strength to our workforce, and who have enriched our communities. We hope our elected officials will support policies that help current and future immigrant families be together so that they will be able to once again hold and help each other. Here at OneWorld, we know that having their spouses, children, brothers, sisters and parents able to join them through the immigration process is not only a humane thing, it is a good thing.

We believe that all can be welcomed and have the opportunities that people like our founders envisioned when they started a small health care clinic in a former church parsonage in South Omaha. Immigration reform is needed; we know it is a challenging and difficult policy issue, but let it be thoughtful, sensible and humane.

As an employer, we have been fortunate to have had wonderful staff members who were also immigrants in various stages of citizenship status. These staff members include people with H1B visas (professionals from other countries who help fill needed positions), Dreamers, and most proudly, employees who were our patients when newly arrived who went on to study and train and are part of our professional staff today. Immigrants, refugees and asylees are in positions throughout Nebraska’s workforce, and they are important to the economic success of our state.

If we enact sensible, workable immigration laws that embody our values, we will lift up not only the most vulnerable in our world, we will lift up our own communities and our nation.

Andrea Skolkin, Omaha
Chief Executive Officer, OneWorld Community Health Centers

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