Hermiston city council to ask President Obama for immigration reform

Hermiston city leaders plan to ask President Obama and federal lawmakers to find an easier way to legalize undocumented residents.

Hermiston leaders say the illegal immigrant population there is growing, and those residents have a positive impact on the economy, as many of them work in agriculture to bring food to your table.

They say many undocumented immigrants are good people just trying to provide for their family, and they say it's time they become legal citizens.

Eddie De La Cruz leads the Hispanic Advisory Committee in Hermiston and says there are thousands of illegal immigrants in the city who are fearful of being deported every day.

"99% of these people have that fear. They're afraid of getting picked up and then their kids are gonna stay on this side, and they're gonna be on the other side" said De La Cruz.

More than 16,000 people live in Hermiston.

De La Cruz says about 15% of the population are illegal immigrants who contribute to the economy by working in agriculture.

City leaders are now trying to make them legal residents.

"We still need to be that melting pot environment for people that come and find the American dream, and we need to figure out a process that allows them to do that a little easier" said Dave Drotzmann, Hermiston mayor.

Last night, city council members voted 7 - 1 to ask federal lawmakers to make "fair and sensible immigration reform laws a priority".

Council members say this isn't just immigration reform, they're asking for the legalization of worthy undocumented immigrants.

"Historically, the United States has been built on immigrant labor, and whether it was roads, the railroad, bridges, skyscrapers, that's how we got things done in the United States, and that's how we continue to do that" said Drotzmann.

De La Cruz says illegal immigrants do the jobs nobody wants to do.

And if they were all deported, it would create major economic problems.

"It would be disastrous for the economy because they're the ones that go out there and that's how we have the vegetables on our tables, and that's how we have the necessities that we need" said De La Cruz.

Legal residents in eastern Oregon we spoke with today have mixed feelings on the issue.

"I think it's a great idea because we have to have everybody here help out" said Phyllis Delgado, Hermiston resident.

"I don't think that they should be handed a free pass, no" said Patricia Wagner, Echo resident.

Either way, De La Cruz says last night's decision is a big step toward bringing hope to undocumented workers.   

"They feel comfortable that they belong to this community" said De La Cruz.

The next step for city leaders is to write letters expressing their request for immigration reform.

They plan to write to President Obama, their U.S senators and U.S. representative.

Next week, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is coming to visit Hermiston.

City leaders say they plan to discuss this issue with him when he arrives.