While the immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in June appears to be stalled in the House of Representatives, members of the Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee (HAC) remain hopeful that enough Republican members of Congress will come on board so the proposed legislation can become law before the year is over.
Proponents of the bill are targeting key Republicans who represent ag-dependent districts that rely heavily on farm labor. One of those Republicans is Greg Walden, whose Second Congressional District includes all of Eastern Oregon. HAC Chairman Eddie de la Cruz said he and other supporters of immigration reform met with one of Walden’s aides last month in an effort to get Walden’s backing of the bill.
De la Cruz said the meeting included area farmers who have come out in support of the Senate bill.
“Our area, being a big ag area, is affected big time by this issue,” de la Cruz said during Monday’s HAC meeting. “We’ve asked Mr. Walden to come here and discuss immigration reform. Our local economy really depends on it.
HAC member George Anderson said the biggest obstacle to getting House GOP members to support the bill is the fact that many of them represent small districts with few Latino or Hispanic constituents.
“They’re worried about people more conservative than them running for their seat,” Anderson said. “I hope these people reconsider it and not abandon 11 million people.”
HAC member Manuel Gutierrez said undocumented farm laborers play a critical role in the economy.
“Farm workers are the backbone of this country’s ag industry,” he said.
De la Cruz said he is hopeful that public opinion in favor of immigration reform can sway members of Congress who are sitting on the fence to come over to the side of immigration reform. He asked proponents to write letters to House members urging them to support the Senate bill.
“We’re hoping that by the end of the year we’ll have something happen,” he said.
Also Monday, Anderson went over the draft of an ordinance aimed at regulating mobile food vendors in Hermiston. Anderson highlighted some of the key points of the draft ordinance. They include:
• The city will issue a maximum of nine business licenses. There are currently nine mobile vendors in Hermiston.
• Licenses may be freely sold or transferred but transferees must meet all ordinance criteria.
• Mobile vendors must move off their site at the end of each day and may only operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. They will, however, be able to operate in one location for as long as they like.
• Vendors may only operate from an approved location, one that meets the city’s criteria of safety, parking and setbacks.
• Vendors must be at least 400 feet from other vendors and restaurants.
• Vans and trailers will be allowed, however, by 2023 only vans will be allowed.
• All vending sites must meet basic appearance criteria.
The draft ordinance will have a public hearing during the Aug. 26 meeting of the Hermiston City Council.
The Hispanic Advisory Committee also discussed the possibility of expanding its membership from seven to nine.
“We have a lot of responsibilities and we’re all very busy right now,” de la Cruz said. HAC member Virginia Garcia said it is important that any new member take an active role on the committee.
“It’s important to me that any new member participate,” she said. “It’s a serious commitment.”
The next HAC meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16 at Hermiston City Hall.