Horsemen have indicated they plan to step up efforts to educate legislators about their concerns regarding immigration policy in the United States given the horseracing industry’s heavy reliance on foreign workers, particularly those of Hispanic origin.

The issue was addressed at a Feb. 8 workshop during the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association winter convention in Hot Springs, Ark. The meeting was titled “Immigration Reform Under a New Congress and How It Will Impact Horsemen.”

Legislation currently in the Senate has 17 sponsors, 10 of which are Democrats, said Peggy Hendershot, vice president of legislation and corporate planning for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The shift in power to Democrats in Congress could facilitate passage of the bill, she said.

“This was part of the Democrat’s agenda when they came into power (in the 2006 November election),” Hendershot said. “It’s pretty much a Democrat-driven issue, so it probably has little better shot.”

What that means for the horse industry remains to be seen. Workshop participants said the U.S. Department of Labor might not have an understanding of how the industry operates and what it needs in terms of its workforce.

“We need to start educating ourselves and the public,” said Mary Ann O’Connell, executive director of the Washington HBPA.

Hendershot suggested horsemen become active in Horse PAC, an NTRA initiative that has raised about $1.5 million for political action. Horse PAC doled out about $350,000 last year, and will give out a similar amount in 2007 even though it’s not an election year.

“It’s all about relationships and money,” Hendershot said. “We’ve enlisted horsemen from time to time when we’ve had to move legislation along. We would welcome your participation in Horse PAC.”console.log('scenario 2');