Bakersfield councilman calls for immigration reform support

Bakersfield councilman calls for immigration reform support

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The debate over immigration reform may take center stage at the Bakersfield City Council. Ward 1 councilman Willie Rivera will ask his colleagues to adopt a resolution in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

"I think it's an issue that, especially where we live, deserves a lot of attention," said Rivera. "I think the City Council should make it known that we support immigration reform."

The resolution specifically cites legislation by Florida Congressman Joe Garcia, now pending in the House of Representatives.

Rivera's resolution reads: "The City of Bakersfield supports the passage of HR-15 as it relates to national security, economic development, and comprehensive and modern immigration reform."

But the issue remains a politically sensitive one, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has not taken action on bringing up any immigration reform legislation, a point not lost on Rivera.

"Years and years have passed, families are split apart. The system's broken, and I think it's time we do something," said Rivera.

In California alone, there are more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, and thousands reside and work in Kern County. Numerous cities have gone on record supporting immigration reform, including Delano and McFarland, which passed similar resolutions in 2013. 

Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall joined hundreds of other supporters for immigration reform at a rally and march held in downtown Bakersfield in March 2013.

"It is time we examine what needs to be done to create a pathway to legal residency and the opportunity to pursue citizenship," said Hall.

The Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, California Farm Bureau and local business leaders are also among the advocates for federal action on immigration reform.

"I think eventually it will happen," said Jay Tamsi, president and CEO of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "I think it's very important for the city of Bakersfield to set the standard for other cities to come forward."

Rivera will present the resolution at the June 25 Bakersfield City Council meeting. It needs four out of seven votes from council members to pass.