New York Senator Charles Schumer has indicated that significant progress has been made in seeking to achieve comprehensive immigration reform early next year.

Schumer gave a lengthy interview to El Diario this week in which he made some very telling points about his strategy, as immigration reform becomes an issue on the agenda for the early months of 2010.

Clearly he is trying to achieve a fait accompli before the bill ever gets to the House or Senate floor. He is working closely with Senator Lindsey Graham to try and achieve that. (The following quotes are a Google translation form the original Spanish version that appeared in El Diario).

"The only way I can make this happen, is that when we announce the law, we are all together, immigrants, employers, trade unions, religious groups, evangelical, Democrats and Republicans, “Schumer said stating that negotiations between these groups have made considerable progress.

Schumer said that we must find a way to stop illegal immigration with an emphasis on the employer. Clearly this is his olive branch to the Republicans.

"The only way to stop illegal immigration is that employers do not hire them. We do not know the exact form this will take, but all citizens and non-citizens … should use a Social Security card with photo and biometric (fingerprint). Everyone will have to use the card when applying for a job and that will pass through a machine,” he said.

"If the employer hires someone with no papers he will have a huge fine and possibly go to jail. This will cut illegal immigration by 90%, " the senator added.

It is also clear that Schumer will be insisting on a fine of some sort when illegals come forward to be processed for the amnesty – which, come to think of it, would not make it an amnesty as it would involve admitting a wrong.

That is tough talk from a Democratic senator, but shows that Schumer is not going to tolerate half-baked solutions to the issue that have no hope of passing muster in Congress.

Schumer also says considerable agreement has been reached on several categories of visas.

For workers with visas, he said: "We reached agreements in relation to which we do with high-skill workers, including agriculture jobs (like 2007), we have an agreement on temporary workers and we will maintain the quota of 65,000 H1-B visas, but that'll change … foreign professionals in fields as science, technology, engineering and mathematics," will likely get preference, he said.

Schumer will likely face most opposition from within his own party and from immigrant support groups for his tough version of immigration reform. However, to get President Obama on board he knows he will have to walk a thin line between such groups and the reality of the Republican hardline on immigration.

No doubt the idea of paying a fine when seeking a green card will be a big issue, but if the fine is not for a huge amount and if the person is then free to work legally it would be hard for the undocumented themselves to turn it down.

Schumer is talking sense and needs to be listened to. There is simply no chance that an immigration reform bill that does not crack down on employers who hire them and asks them to pay a fine can get through in the current climate.

The difference between the perfect and the good has never been more obvious. Immigration groups really need to rally behind Schumer’s bill when it is published for them to have any chance at all to make life better for the undocumented.

The real fear is that the reflexive attitude that the bill is not good enough will take over. There is simply no reason why that should be the response.