Comprehensive reform will probably not arrive during the first three months of 2010. So said Angelo Amador, executive director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Amador spoke as part of a panel during the recent Dairy Business Association (DBA) conference in Madison.

There are at least two reasons for the likely delay, according to Amador. First, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is no longer in the Senate. Kennedy was a champion for comprehensive immigration reform. And, with a replacement for Kennedy, plus other new faces in the Senate, “new ideas” are being presented, Amador explained. “So we have to start from scratch.”

A second reason for a delay is that the House and Senate must deal with other pressing matters, too. One of those is climate change legislation. It’s “pretty clear,” said Amador, that climate change will be the first issued addressed by Congress.

If the nation’s immigration laws are not reformed during the first three months of 2010, how about getting them changed by April? If an April or May deadline is not met, it’s not likely that much will happen during the summer, Amador told his DBA audience of dairy producers, many of whom rely on Hispanic labor.

During next summer, many in Congress will want to hit the campaign trail at home, since 2010 is an election year.

Even if no meaningful reform of immigration laws takes place next year, the issue will still generate a lot of activity, said Tamar Jacoby, president and chief executive officer of ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of employers.

“…The dynamic to watch,” she said, is “…between the President and Congress.” President Obama needs to “at least look like” he and his fellow Democrats are working on immigration reform, she explained. That’s because the Democratic Party has a large base of Latino voters who want immigration laws altered.

“The problem is, in Congress, nobody really wants to do it” (immigration reform), Jacoby remarked. However, to please voters in their home districts, politicians want to “look like” they’re “pushing” on the issue, she added.

Making immigration reform even tougher to accomplish is the fact that partisan politics is involved. Jacoby said the Republicans “don’t want to give him (President Obama) a big victory.”

Because of those conflicting forces, the nation could end up with a “piecemeal” answer, Jacoby continued. That could come as legislation that grants amnesty to workers who are in the U.S. illegally, but does nothing to make a reliable supply of foreign labor available to segments of the economy — like agriculture — that need it most, she indicated.

If piecemeal legislation doesn’t pass, either, two other scenarios could play out, Jacoby said. The first such scenario n and the worst one, according to Jacoby – has immigration reform turning into an all-out “politicized battle.” The second scenario is that Congress could simply decide to do nothing to address the problem. “Congress is uncertain,” Jacoby remarked. That uncertainty could yield legislation that employers do not like, she warned.

Agriculture and other industries need a “pipeline” that allows immigrant workers to enter the U.S. legally, Jacoby said. Such a pipeline is the “most important” aspect of any immigration reform law, she emphasized.

Businesses need to become more involved in the dialogue, Jacoby asserted. Dairy farmers, restaurateurs, and construction company owners all need to tell members of Congress how much they “need immigrants,” she said.

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