WALLA WALLA - When Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers responds to the State of the Union address tonight, some Walla Wallans are hoping she'll take a stand for immigration reform.
Half a dozen groups representing farm workers and immigrants came together Tuesday morning to demonstrate outside the Republican congresswoman's Walla Walla office, asking her to mention the need for immigration reform in her response speech.
"We want her to be bold on immigration reform. Today is a very important day," said Jorge Valenzuela, an organizer with the United Farm Workers, speaking to the congresswoman's deputy district director, Cathy Schaeffer.
He spoke about the importance of agriculture to the region and said studies have estimated about 70 percent of farm workers are undocumented.
In a statement this morning, McMorris Rodgers said, "We must enact a smart, fair, and permanent solution, which is why I am dedicated to taking a step-by-step approach to an across-the-board solution that includes border security, modernizing legal immigration, creating a workable agriculture guest worker program, and addressing those who are here unlawfully."
Her office did not respond to questions about the topics which will be covered in tonight's response speech.
The rally, organized by the United Farm Workers, was attended by representatives from OneAmerica, Causa Oregon and the City of Hermiston.
OneAmerica organizer Mary Lopez said she and other organizers would keep the pressure on McMorris Rodgers to act on immigration reform this year.
"We want immigration reform with a path to citizenship for all," she said.
Tribune Media reported this morning that House Republicans will consider an immigration reform proposal this week which would include a path to legal status, and possibly citizenship, for many immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
The potential breakthrough for long-stalled immigration legislation would allow millions of immigrants in the country illegally to gain legal status and, in some cases, to eventually become citizens.
House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio is expected, after a retreat with GOP leaders this week, to issue a list of broad immigration "principles" to include a narrow path to citizenship as well as tighter border security and new visas for foreign workers.
President Barack Obama will make his case for immigration overhaul in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, starting at 6 p.m. Pacfic Standard Time. McMorris Rodgers is to give the GOP response to Obama's address after his speech.
A senior administration official said Monday that the White House remained "cautiously optimistic" about prospects for moving an immigration bill, or series of bills, through Congress this year, Tribune Media reported.
"There are important economic consequences for passing immigration reform, from expanding economic opportunity to creating jobs, to reducing the deficit," the news service quoted the official, who asked not to be identified discussing the president's speech in advance. "There are a whole lot of good reasons for the Congress to take action on this."