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Salinas Talks Immigration, Farm Bill, and More at Salem Forum

Written by George Plaven on Mar. 19th, 2024
Featured Image photo for Salinas Talks Immigration, Farm Bill, and More at Salem Forum

In a closely divided Congress with razor-thin majorities in both chambers, U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.) emphasized the need for bipartisanship to deliver results on the country’s most pressing issues — including immigration, border security, and passing a new Farm Bill that provides a greater safety net for agricultural producers reeling from natural disasters fueled by climate change. 

“I’m all about real solutions,” Salinas told a crowd of business leaders at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Forum Speaker Series on Feb. 12. “When I disagree with my party, you can bet that I will vote accordingly.” 

Salinas joined the chamber for an hour-long discussion at the Salem Convention Center, where she defended her track record of reaching across the political aisle while deploring both far-right and far-left factions that she said are obstructing progress. 

“When people dig in their heels and can’t even work with moderate (members), that can feel frustrating,” Salinas said.

However, Salinas did point to instances of success. She highlighted legislation to amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act, restoring the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s right to pursue land claims and compensation. That bill passed the House with bipartisan support in 2023, though it took some back-and-forth with Republicans to get there.

“That’s how it works. That’s how it works in business too, right?” Salinas said. “You figure out where’s that point where we can both live with it, and we both get something from it.” 

During the forum, Salinas fielded questions touching on several issues with major ramifications for Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.


On immigration, Salinas — the daughter of a Mexican immigrant — said the current system hasn’t been revised in nearly 35 years. Lawmakers from both parties need to work together to ensure there is an orderly process for those coming into the country to live and work.

Simultaneously, Salinas said more resources are needed for security at the Southern Border. She visited one crossing in El Paso, Texas last May and described how border communities are being “ravaged” by the sheer amount of people crossing into the U.S.

Solutions for border security and immigration reform should come hand-in-hand, she said. 

Farm Bill

As a member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, Salinas said passing a new Farm Bill in 2024 is critically important for Oregon agricultural producers. The Farm Bill was supposed to be updated last year, though lawmakers instead passed a continuing resolution in November that extended the current 2018 Farm Bill through September.

One outstanding issue, Salinas said, is making sure there are dependable insurance options for specialty crop growers. She referenced damage sustained by Oregon nurseries during a January ice storm that hammered the Willamette Valley. 

Dam Breaching

Salinas was also asked whether she supported removing four hydroelectric dams to aid salmon restoration on the Lower Snake River. Her response was careful not to commit one way or the other, though Salinas said she was thankful to see the federal government prioritizing salmon recovery. 

At the same time, Salinas said removing those four dams could have devastating consequences for the Northwest’s renewable energy portfolio, and on agricultural shippers that depend on the river to move their products to export terminals along the West Coast.

Though the Lower Snake River dams are in Washington, she said the impacts of possibly breaching them would be felt throughout the region, and Oregon’s congressional delegation must have a seat at the table.

Going Forward

Going forward, Salinas encouraged business owners and community members to stay engaged and reach out to her with their ideas and concerns.

“It doesn’t have to be about your business,” she said. “Just continue to be involved, and continue to dialogue with me. When we stop doing that, that’s when things melt down.”

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