Opposition to amnesty remains the major stumbling block to immigration reform.
With an agenda geared toward economic recovery, tax legislation and health care coverage, it's not likely that immigration reform will be a priority for President-elect Barack Obama when he takes office this month.
But progress in overhauling the nation's immigration policies could emerge by late 2009 or early 2010. "The issue is too critical for Congress to let it go any further,” says Bob Gray of Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives.
More Democratic seats in Congress and Obama's stated support for immigration reform bode well for policy change, Gray says. Opposition to amnesty, however, remains the major stumbling block. Resistance from many active organizations and the Republican party's own schism on the issue also hinder reform efforts, he adds.
Even so, Gray expects immigration reform legislation, particularly the AgJOBS bill, to be reintroduced early in the new 111th Congress. AgJOBS, which streamlines the H-2A or guest worker program, has broad support and has "been vetted by everybody,” he says.
Signs that the new administration may address the issue include Obama's choice for Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano. "Her record [as Arizona governor] was pretty good,” Gray says. "She was evenhanded with both businesses and immigrant workers.”
Gray also cites a judge's December refusal to expedite a decision in the lawsuit that's blocking the new Social Security no-match rule. Gray hopes that the issue will languish until the Obama administration decides what stance it will take on immigration reform.
In the meantime, Gray urges producers to support the efforts of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform in Congress and to contact their congressmen and senators and urge them to move forward on reform.
Click here for the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform web site.
Click here to read in spanish.