Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Valadao is third House Republican to support immigration bill

Recently, Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock became the first Republican to formally endorse a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by House Democrats.

In the meantime, Denham’s Republican colleague, David Valadao, was doing just about everything he could to show support for immigration reform — short of signing on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. David Valadao

On Wednesday, Valadao changed that when he joined Denham and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as the third Republican to sign on as a bill co-sponsor.

The 1,137-page House bill includes a pathway to legal status and, potentially, eventual U.S. citizenship for immigrants currently in this country without authorization. It also includes myriad other provisions, including border security measures, an agricultural worker program, employment verification and more.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform say at least 28 Republicans have publicly expressed support for a path to citizenship — but only Denham, Ros-Lehtinen and now Valadao have put their name on a bill that would make that a reality.

In a Wednesday news release, Valadao said he has been “working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform.”

By supporting the legislation, he said, “I am strengthening my message: addressing immigration reform in the House cannot wait. I am serious about making real progress and will remain committed to doing whatever it takes to repair our broken immigration system.”

Valadao still on immigration reform fence

David Valadao

Rep. David Valadao of Hanford said Tuesday he hasn’t ruled out a break with his Republican party’s leadership over comprehensive immigration reform.

“A bunch of us are getting nervous,” said during a Tuesday telephone news conference, The Bakersfield Californian‘s Steven Mayer reported, echoing comments he and fellow Valley Republican Jeff Denham made to Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle for a story published in Sunday’s Bee.

While Valadao said he favors a path to citizenship, he remained cautious Tuesday about whether to take the kind of risk Denham has taken and throw his support behind the bipartisan effort.

“I haven’t ruled that out yet,” Valadao said.

Several high-profile supporters of immigration reform joined Valadao at the news conference, including Fresno Chamber of Commerce CEO Al Smith, California Chamber President Marti Fisher, Nisei Farmers League President Manuel Cunha and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who shared the stage for a round-table discussion (more coverage of Tuesday’s event, including video, here).

Amanda Renteria, who announced last month that she’ll run against Valadao next year, said in a statement Tuesday that Valadao is one of many in Washington who talk about problems rather than do something about them.

“Valadao could have taken part in bipartisan talks that have been going on all year, but he hasn’t,” she said. “He could have joined other Republicans and worked on a popular Democratic proposal, but he won’t do that, either. Congressman Valadao just isn’t getting the job done, and that’s unacceptable for the valley.”

New Super-PAC to help Central Valley GOP congressmen

Former Republican Congressman Richard Pombo is heading up a newly formed Super PAC, which will focus on electing — or keeping in office — Central Valley-based Republican and conservative congressmen.

The federal political action committee will be known as Empower Central Valley. Pombo is the chairman — and its public face. As with so many other such independent organizations, everyone else — including donors — will remain anonymous.

Richard Pombo

But Pombo, a Tracy cattle rancher, did say that “ag interests are all gearing up to get involved.” He said many contribute significant amounts of money to Republican causes and committees, but the money ends up being sent to out-of-state candidates.

“With other PACs, very little is spent in California,” Pombo said. “They raise money here, but spend it in Ohio.”

Empower Central Valley, he said, will spend its money in the Valley.

The first order of business is ensuring that Hanford Republican David Valadao in the 21st District and Turlock Republican Jeff Denham in the 10th District hold on to their respective congressional seats. The two have earned the PAC’s initial endorsements.

Both will almost certainly be Democratic Party targets next year. Beyond that, the PAC will look to get involved in other Valley races that may be competitive, be they working to keep a Central Valley Republican in office or hoping to oust a rival Democrat.

The PAC’s initial budget, based on the current targeted seats, is $1.2 million, Pombo said.

“We can expand, based on need,” he added.

The PAC is, by law, independent of the candidates it supports.

It is permitted to raise unlimited funds and in turn advocate for the election of federal candidates.