Push for Sweeping Reform Set for Early 2010

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on October 19, 2009

The word is going out from Rep. Luis Gutierrez and his business allies that they must mobilize to push comprehensive immigration reform through a narrow window of opportunity early next year.

"The room for doing this is very small," Gutierrez said Sunday on the Spanish-language Univision program, "Al Punto." "We have to do it in February or early March of next year."

To that end, the Chicago Democrat said, he and allies in Congress have been meeting with church and labor leaders, as well as leaders from the Asian-American community to write a bill broad enough for all of them to support and big enough to provide room for negotiation.

He described one of their tactics as: "Don't negotiate against ourselves before sitting at the table with our adversaries."

Gutierrez said the bill will first go to the Senate, where Sen. Charles Schumer has been working on a bill. "He is collaborating with Republicans in formulating the plan there. And he feels very comfortable that he will have a bipartisan agreement by the end of January."

Meanwhile, the business lobby ImmigrationWorks assured its partners last week that President Obama wants to see a congressional debate about immigration in early 2010. Reporting on a meeting with White House staff, coalition leader Tamar Jacoby told members via e-mail: "The meeting was somber at times no one thinks this will be easy. The White House knows, maybe better than anyone, how bitterly polarized the country is today."

Then she called for mobilization: "But this is where we come in. They need our help to get this done."

And the way to do that, she said, is to pound the drum in Congress.

Said Jacoby: "Many members of Congress still don't get it. Many are still leery of immigration. And when they go home to their districts, they still hear only the voices shouting 'No.' We have to help change that."

"Congressional visits are important. We must keep up that drumbeat. So is recruiting a grassroots rank and file. But we also need to start making our voices heard, publicly. Have you and others in your coalition considered publishing an op-ed piece or a letter to the editor in the local newspaper? What about visiting the newspaper editorial board? Calling in to a local talk radio show? Speaking up at a Rotary Club or a town hall meeting?"

And for those not comfortable with crafting a political message, Jacoby promised:

"ImmigrationWorks can help with templates, talking points and advice."