HERMISTON -- The Hermiston City Council -- or at least all but one member -- wants Congress to pass "fair and sensible" immigration reform laws, including a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
The council on Monday voted 7-1 to send a letter to President Obama, Democratic U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Republican Congressman Greg Walden asking them to make immigration reform a priority.
"This isn't just immigration reform, it is asking for the legalization of worthy undocumented immigrants," Councilman George Anderson said in a statement.
Councilman John Kirwan cast the lone dissenting vote, and reportedly questioned whether the city council is the right venue to support or oppose federal political issues.
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"Once we open the door, how do we close it?" Kirwan was quoted in a news release as saying Monday.
The council took up the issue of immigration at the request of the city's Hispanic Advisory Committee, which unanimously agreed in December to ask the council to send the letter.
Mark Morgan, assistant to the city manager, told the Herald that the committee was formed last year after the 2010 Census showed that Hermiston had become the largest city in Eastern Oregon and that the proportion of Hispanic residents had risen from 24 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2010.
The committee is made up of bilingual residents, and meetings are conducted in Spanish with English translation, Morgan said.
He said the committee helps give the city's Spanish-speaking residents an entry point into city processes when they might find the city council intimidating.
"These are issues that impact them, but they're not going to come to a regular city council meeting," Morgan said.
He estimated that about 100 people attended Monday's city council meeting, with 10 people opting to speak. No one spoke in opposition to the letter, Morgan said.