Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) (Wow, that looks weird), just changed parties, and this changes the dyanmic somewhat for immigration reform this year. While Senator Specter has always been considered a friend of immigration and immigration reform, he has long been under pressure from more conservative Republican Senators to not support a legalization plan as part of CIR package. That pressure to remain closer to the “new,” more conservative Republican party approach (as opposed to the Reagan era Amensty approach), is now gone.

Does this mean we will definitely have immigration reform now, particularly if Norm Coleman ever gives up his challenge to Senator-elect Franken? No, but it certainly paves the way for at least one more vote for a CIR package.

Probably even more important is the boost this gives to those who believe, like us, that CIR is essential to renewed economic growth. Senator Specter spoke to our Spring AILA Conference (was it that which pushed him over the edge?). He let us know that he actually gets it. He understands all the key aspects of reform. He understands it is NOT just about legalization. He understands that it is also about DREAM. It is also about increased immigrant visa numbers. It is also about more sensible nonimmigrant visa categories. It is also about reforming how USCIS operates, and it is also about smarter enforcement and going after the real bad actors, not those struggling to put bread in the mouths of their children.

Overall, Senator Specter’s decision to switch parties is a good for CIR and good for immigrants.