An important first step

The bill for comprehensive immigration reform introduced by the Gang of Eight shows that it is actually possible to have an agreement between Democrats and Republicans to regularize the legal status of millions of undocumented immigrants.

This bipartisan achievement inevitably has a price for all parties, because of the nature of political compromise. Its purpose is to answer the concerns of conservatives and liberals about a very complex law that covers different areas like security, the economy and employment.

This is a humane, generous bill that does not impose restrictions of many years of residency like the 1986 reform did, while at the same time including the return of a category of people who were deported.

On the other hand, its path to citizenship is much longer than usual, with fines and obligations, and a merit system to obtain a green card.

What is worrisome is that it establishes a close relationship between border security and the start of the process for the undocumented to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status, a new category.

It is very hard to define a secure border, and the bill establishes effectiveness percentages and funds physical reinforcement. What is good is that it sets deadlines and once they are missed, it develops a political process for an essentially political decision, like certifying border security, so that the process to legalize the undocumented can advance.

This bipartisan bill is an important, positive first step. However, there can still be many changes, since hearings, amendments and the version from the House of Representatives are still pending. But this is a special opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Opinion polls show there is popular support for this overhaul, while agreements forged in drafting the bill indicate that business and labor unions are willing to work together toward this goal. We will see if politicians make the most of this moment to achieve historic legislation.

La Opinión/ImpreMedia