Numbers: The Hard Truth About Immigration Reform

'Comprehensive Immigration Reform,' a.k.a. CIR, seems to be on a roll. The Gang of Eight in the Senate and a similar cabal in the House claim they will release bills in April. I hope they do.

But all CIR bills will fail unless they confront one central truth: Numbers.

We need a 'surge' of visa numbers on the front end, right now, to wipe out the backlog of thousands of family members and potential employees who have been waiting, patiently, 'in line' for years.

And to eliminate a future buildup of another undocumented immigrant population, we need many more visa numbers in every visa category. In fact, most categories should be uncapped. The reason we have 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. today is the fact that the waiting line for most visas is too long, or there is no line at all.

It will be relatively easy for Congress to tinker with the Immigration & Nationality Act so as to give the appearance of reform by changing the names of certain visa categories and creating new categories altogether, such as slots for entrepreneurs.

It will be much harder for members of Congress - Democrats and Republicans alike - to tell their constituents, clearly and honestly, that real reform means more immigration, not just different immigration.

After many years of dodging the bullet, Congress seems to have accepted the fact that our immigration system is broken, and seems willing to make a serious effort toward reform. But will our Senators and House members really do the hard work needed to convert effort into reality? Will they give us more visas?