Politics, government and public life for Southern California

A rare bi-partisan public forum on immigration reform

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House Republicans are in the bullseye of labor activists, religious leaders, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley executives and others pushing for immigration reform. Activists plan to keep the pressure on during the August recess. 

But one GOP lawmaker from Bakersfield is stepping away from his hard-line colleagues, initiating a conversation this weekend about immigration with a colleague from across the aisle.

Freshman GOP Congressman David Valadao will join Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutiérrez on Saturday afternoon at an immigration town hall in Bakersfield. Gutiérrez is one of the bipartisan "Gang of Seven" group that has been crafting a comprehensive immigration bill in the House. They'll be joined by United Farmworkers Union co-founder Dolores Huerta, as well as other community and religious leaders.

Valadao says immigration is a huge issue in his district, which is 71% Latino. His parents are immigrants of Portuguese descent. He's publicly supported a guest worker program for agriculture and more visas for high tech workers. As to the estimated 11 million undocumented in this country, Valadao says about half of them "tried to go through the system, but gave up because of how long it takes" to get a visa approved. He says he knows constituents who've been waiting 20 years to get some kind of status.

The other half, he says, "we're going to have to figure out a way to make that work." He wants to "get rid" of those causing trouble. "The ones that are doing a good job, working, doing everything right, trying to raise a family, trying to do good for their family — we've got to find a way to make sure that we give them the opportunity to have the American dream, just like my parents did."

Valadao represents a district that's only about a third Republican.

Immigration activists are targeting more than half a dozen California Congressional GOP members to try to swing their votes for immigration reform.

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