Walden Seen as Key Player in Immigration Reform

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Jorge Valenzuela
United Farm Workers Regional Director Jorge Valenzuela told the Hispanic Advisory Committee Monday that he is optimistic immigration reform could pass the House of Representatives - with the help of Oregon Republican Greg Walden.

One of the leading voices in Hermiston in support of immigration reform said he is optimistic a bill could pass Congress this year and the key to its success could hinge on the vote of Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

Jorge Valenzuela, regional director for the United Farm Workers, spoke to the Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee Monday night. Valenzuela, along with Hispanic Advisory Chairman Eddie de la Cruz, met with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in Hood River on Saturday to discuss the prospects of immigration reform. According to Valenzuela, Gutierrez said support will have to come from members of Congress from districts that have an ag-based economy. Walden represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Central and Eastern Oregon.

“We need the help of the farmers – the growers,” Valenzuela told the committee Monday night. “The growers need the labor.”

The Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill. It has yet to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives.

The location of Saturday’s meeting – Walden’s hometown of Hood River – was meant to put pressure on the Oregon Republican, who is considered a swing vote on the immigration reform bill. If Walden can be persuaded to support immigration reform, other Republicans may fall in line, Valenzuela said.

“Greg Walden can move other representatives,” he said. “We have an area here that is heavy into agriculture so we need that support from the growers, as well. But we have an important task in moving Greg Walden in this particular area.”

Valenzuela said the leadership of the United Farm Workers will be meeting to discuss the next steps in its effort to get immigration reform passed. He also thanked the Hermiston City Council for its support of immigration reform. The city council and mayor sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Oregon’s congressional delegation this spring urging them to support “fair and sensible” immigration reform.

Valenzuela asked community members to write letters to Walden and to go on Facebook to show their support.

City Councilor Manuel Gutierrez, also a member of the Hispanic Advisory Committee, said fair immigration reform is needed, if for no other reason to provide farms with a labor force.

“This country has been an immigration country from the start,” he said. He said the produce section of a grocery store would be all but bare if not for farm laborers.

Fellow councilor and HAC member George Anderson repeated his statement that “immigration reform is the single most significant social justice issue of our time.”