Reformers and activists will tell you, privately, that good times are bad for reform.

Reformers and activists will tell you, privately, that good times are bad for reform.

During periods of prosperity, people are so busy enjoying themselves that they aren't motivated to tackle big problems. Bad times, on the other hand, have a galvanizing effect. And that's why an Oregon coalition pushing for immigration reform is right to keep pushing for it — yes, even now, when the nation is beset by other huge problems and perils.

The Coalition for a Working Oregon came together only in the past year, and it offers a perspective rooted in real people and real work sites. We're talking real orchards, real farms and real nurseries, where finding enough workers every year has been a life-or-death business proposition. Listen up, Oregon.

Many people have an opinion about illegal immigration, grounded in abstractions. But this coalition has the "sweat equity" to make the case for reform.

As The Oregonian's Gosia Wozniacka reported recently, the coalition melds union leaders, faith leaders and employer associations, representing the dairy, nursery, restaurant and construction industries.

Not all of these are natural allies. The employers, in particular, have often been reluctant to speak up, about their need for a reliable supply of workers.

"We came together to talk sense, to explain that there are consequences to enforcement-only actions, and to change the debate to a more reasonable, humane, realistic conversation — instead of vilifying a whole ethnic group," says the Oregon Nursery Association's Jeff Stone. "Ultimately, we're going to have to live together as a community."

Excellent point.

Plus, when the economy starts to rebound, as we can all hope it will, it would be smart to have a sensible approach in place. The only sensible approach is a federal solution. In the absence of that, a crazy, piecemeal, state-by-state crackdown has materialized.

Much as former President George W. Bush first envisioned it, a federal solution would be crafted to give employers a legal supply of workers; crack down on companies that deliberately hire undocumented workers as part of their business plans; and regularize the status of 11 million to 12 million illegal workers already here (including 150,000 in Oregon).

To say that the coalition must keep the pressure on is not to say that immigration reform should jump to the top of the congressional "to-do" list. There are just too many other pressing concerns right now.

But, understand, the coalition isn't just worried about "to-dos." It's also trying to make the point that state and local politicians, clamoring for attention around the country, need to avoid pressing this hot button. The growing welter of state and local rules only creates havoc.

State legislation concerning illegal immigration? We agree with the coalition. It should be right at the top of the Oregon Legislature's "don't list."