As today’s editorial in the New York Times suggests, the key issue in the CIR debate is what to do with the US’ 12 million undocumented workers. If Congress can reach a compromise between the liberals who want easy paths to legalization, and the “deport-‘em-all” conservatives, CIR will happen.

The compromise position has been in the public domain for about a year and was originally floated by Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Pence. It calls for a certain class of immigrants to have to exit the US and then legally reenter (“touchback”); the plan also liberalizes certain immigration quotas and classes when predetermined benchmarks are reached (“triggers”).

Sen. Hutchison has always been the leader in Schedule A liberalization, so it is unsurprising to see her also take a lead on the broader reform. When all is said and done she may turn out to be the unsung hero of immigration reform.