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Immigration Reform: Will Walden Be On Board?

August 28, 2009

BEND, Ore. - Oregon 2nd District Congressman Greg Walden will be greeted - and perhaps grilled - today in Bend by a coalition of groups who think he should be doing more to support immigration reform. His Web site does not mention immigration as an issue, and the Republican has been strictly conservative on that front, voting to build a wall along the southern U.S. border.

But with talk spreading that Walden might run for governor, immigration reform advocates say he should listen to those who are willing to be voting, tax-paying Oregonians. They just want basic rights, such as the ability to drive legally, says Greg Delgado, Latino community coordinator for Central Oregon Jobs with Justice.

"There are 70,000 people right now who don't have a driver's license. In rural areas that just decimates people, because they work in farms and communities out here and they don't have transportation - that affects them drastically."

Immigration reform has taken a back seat to the health care debate in recent months, but Delgado sees both as human rights issues. Having a clear path to citizenship and assurances that immigrants will be treated humanely would do a lot to ease tensions in the state, he adds.

"A lot of people are scared right now, because of the driver's license thing and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention issues we're having in this area. There are very mixed feelings; people are very emotional. There's a lot of fear in the community and some anger. But I believe we're going to work through this."

Delgado says backers will introduce another immigration reform bill in Congress after Labor Day.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. today at Cascades Theatrical Company, 148 N.W. Greenwood, Bend.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR