Finally! It appears Congress may be getting down to serious business on immigration reform.
While that simple fact offers cause for celebration in and of itself, the more encouraging news here is that our political parties seem poised to -- dare we say it -- actually work together to offer reasonable solutions on this highly divisive issue.
Our cynical nature demands we don't get too jazzed just yet. We have, after all, seen this movie before. The stars appeared to be aligned for an immigration deal a half decade ago when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the late former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., negotiated mightily as then-President George W. Bush cheered from the sidelines.
The optimism of that moment was crushed by the politics of the day. Both parties staked out positions designed to please a particular base. That, of course, meant nothing got done.
Now a bipartisan group of eight senators is taking another crack at the issue. There are also efforts being advanced in the House.
The senators on Monday released a "statement of principles" that they say should guide whatever immigration legislation is crafted. The document is meant to establish a sort of rules of the road with the hope that a draft piece of legislation can be presented by the end of March.
Of course, agreeing to broad guidelines for legislation is a long way from actually sending meaningful legislation to the president's desk for signature.
Still, we find it encouraging that at least eight senators are willing to do their jobs by finding a reasonable solution to a difficult problem.
On the Democrat side are Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado.
The Republicans are Sens. John McCain, Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.
We take encouragement that both parties are serious about the issue not because there are eight senators engaged in negotiations, but because of the institutional stature of those senators. Such Democrat A-Teamers as Schumer and Durbin likely would not be involved, if there was not a realistic expectation of a tangible product.
The same is true for Republicans McCain, Graham and, particularly, Rubio. Although Rubio is a relative newcomers to the Senate, he represents Florida and is particularly popular with tea party elements who have traditionally opposed any immigration reform that did not first include deportation of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.
Both parties have begun to do the math and realize that Latino voters are an ever-increasing force in the political process. Republicans have lost two national elections in which huge numbers of Latino voters cast their lot with the Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats know that those Latino voters are expecting results from them -- now.
So, once again, the stars seem aligned for a realistic reform of immigration policy. We can only hope that this time reason and fairness will prevail.