Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson is predicting the federal government will reform its immigration rules by the end of the year.

“I do feel immigration will probably be dealt with as long as [the solution] doesn’t provide amnesty,” Isakson, a Republican, told members of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 11.

The senator chatted with chamber members over coffee and pastries at the United Parcel Service office in Sandy Springs. He addressed about 50 local business leaders attending the inaugural gathering of the chamber’s Chairman’s Circle.

Isakson said public outcry shouted down efforts to try reform immigration rules five years ago. But a similar outcry has not been stirred by talk of reform now.

“Five years ago, all hell broke loose,” he said. “This year, I thought phones would ring off the hook again. They really haven’t. I think everybody realizes we have a problem.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, speaks to members of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 11.

One big problem, he said, a cap on the number of highly educated immigrants given work visas. This year, the number of applicants reached the cap in early January, he said. Immigrant engineers graduating Georgia Tech, he said, receive two pieces of paper – a diploma and a deportation order.

“Our system is pretty screwed up,” he said.

Isakson said this year would be “the year of cliffs” in Congress. Congress has dealt with the first “fiscal cliff” in January, he said, but faces  three more budgetary crises by the end of the year.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.