It has been two weeks since a bipartisan Senate Committee of eight senators released their statement of principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, followed two days later by President Obama during a speech in Las Vegas. The President told the nation that the political stars have aligned and "now is the time" for serious consideration of immigration reform. Together, these statements set the stage for the debate to come.
These two statements provide a hopeful sign that the intractable problems have been reconsidered in light of the new political reality and good old-fashioned compromises have been defined. There are still many difficult decisions ahead. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and it is those details beyond the basic positional statements that will be necessary to define.
When it comes to immigration reform, the critical decisions boil down to numbers. The problem with the last comprehensive reform legislation in 1986 was that the law made no attempt to adjust the limits to changing economic conditions – immigration limits haven’t changed since they were arbitrarily set in 1990.
Immigration policy must be based upon both family reunification and the labor demands and employment opportunities, both core national values. But the law was not built to index or adjust to changing economic conditions. In fact, the Immigration Act of 1990, still in place today, permits the annual admission of 226,000 family-based immigrants, based on various family relationships; and 140,000 immigrants conditioned on the needs of U.S. employers, based on different skill sets.