Lincoln, Neb., July 18, 2008 -- Immigration issues in Nebraska are varied and complex, but many Nebraskans are receiving incorrect information on the topic from myths disseminated through talk shows and the Internet, according to information published in Strategic Discussions for Nebraska's first magazine, "Immigration in Nebraska."
A project in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Strategic Discussions for Nebraska provides opportunities for Nebraskans to talk to each other about national issues relevant to the state and its residents. The privately funded project began in 2007. Its Web site, www.unl.edu/sdn contains the entire magazine, additional stories, photos and video clips.
Talk shows, Internet and the blogosphere reach millions of people, and the information disseminated is often incorrect, Mary Garbacz, coordinator for the project, reported in the magazine. The fear and anger they generate are part of the often-heated immigration controversy in America. Congressional offices are inundated with angry calls and requests for information as a result. Most of the callers have incorrect information on a wide range of topics related to immigration, the magazine reports, and congressional staff people spend a great deal of time correcting misconceptions.
Strategic Discussions for Nebraska found that Nebraska's economy relies on immigration; in fact, some parts of the state are actively recruiting workers from other countries because there just aren't enough people to fill the jobs. Nebraska ranks second nationally in cattle production, for example, and it would not be possible to grow, process and ship that amount of product without these workers.
"Nebraska's population stands at 1.8 million people, with most of the population concentrated in eastern Nebraska," Garbacz reported. "Most of the state's cattle production is in greater Nebraska, and processing sites are located near the areas where the cattle are grown. The smaller communities don't have the necessary population to support such large-scale employers, so immigrant workers fill the need for a work force."
Other businesses in the state also rely on immigrant workers, including construction and agriculture. Employers of immigrant workers indicate their businesses would suffer greatly -- to the point of shutting down -- if it weren't for this work force, having a negative impact on a large portion of Nebraska's economy.
Strategic Discussions for Nebraska benefits from the involvement and advice of its external advisory board, including Jonathan Brand, president of Doane College; Eric Brown, general manager of KRVN Radio in Lexington; Will Norton Jr., dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications; Frederik Ohles, president of Nebraska Wesleyan University; Janie Park, president of Chadron State College; Harvey Perlman, chancellor of UNL; James Seacrest, retired newspaper publisher; Jose Soto, vice president of affirmative action, equity and diversity at Southeast Community College; Lyn Wallin Ziegenbein, executive director of Peter Kiewit Foundation. Ex-officio external board members are Terry Fairfield, vice chairman of the University of Nebraska Foundation; Ralph James, executive director of executive education at Harvard Business School; Robert James, president of Enterprise Asset Management; Cathy James Paglia, director, Enterprise Asset Management. The project also benefited from the involvement of faculty, staff and students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.