As a country of immigrants, we sure have a tough time with immigration.
All of us are immigrants to this land, even the Native Americans. We (or our ancestors) all came here from somewhere else, seeking a better life.
But it's the new illegal immigrants whose presence is stirring so much controversy.
All of this current noise is about new laws floating through Congress, threatening to "get tough" on illegal immigration.
I say, get real.
What you are hearing is a bunch of blowhard politicians acting tough in an election year. They have done nothing to address this problem in the past, so now they want to crack down to sway voters.
The truth is, the government doesn't enforce the laws already on the books, so why should we expect these new measures to be any different.
It is illegal for businesses to hire undocumented workers. Yet they are everywhere in this area. Businesses openly flaunt the law, and get away with it.
If we enforced our drug laws with the same lack of vigor, junkies would be shooting up on every street corner.
The key to our immigration problem is jobs.
We can build walls and fill the Rio Grande with man-eating crocodiles, but the immigrants will still come across that border as long as there are jobs here and poverty there.
The businesses get away with it because the people who enforce these laws let them. Take a test. If you were an immigration officer, how many illegal workers could you round up today, without even really trying? Now ask yourself why that's not happening.
The general reaction you get from our immigration officials comes right out of "Casablanca," they are shocked, shocked! there are illegal immigrants here!
This kind of non-enforcement of laws doesn't happen by accident.
Business interests in this country like the black market labor pool that exists now. They can cut costs by hiring illegals, and their mere presence drives down wages for everyone.
But the issue of immigration, unlike war or health care, is hard for those in power to spin. Everyone gets the basic math of illegal immigration.
That's why both Republican and Democratic officials have to resort to the current deception that feeds this black market of labor. And now they are forced to walk a fine line between doing the bidding of the voters who want higher wages, and their campaign contributors who don't.
But you really have to give President George W. Bush some credit. His guest worker program is basically an attempt to legalize the current two-tier system. This would help lift the legal penalties from businesses like Wal-Mart, which despite the lack of enforcement, sometimes get caught breaking the law. It's a brilliant balancing act to make businesses and Latinos happy at the same time.
And he might pull it off yet. Polls show support from the public, but the string of political disasters swirling in his wake has Republicans in Congress running for the lifeboats.
Many have already jumped ship, afraid the voters will think they are weak on immigration. They want to get tough, to save their own jobs.
Illegal immigrants know tough. Most are economic refugees looking to feed their families. Their home countries are corrupt and significant change isn't likely. They work very hard to create a better life for themselves and their families, just like our ancestors. I very much admire their sacrifices for living here, and the gifts they have brought.
However, there are limits. All countries must be able to secure their borders if they are to remain functioning nations. This is why we have immigration laws, the same laws that many of these new immigrants are violating.
We can argue whether the laws need to be reformed, or if more immigrants should be allowed to come into the country legally to work the jobs a lot of Americans don't want. We can also look at ways to help those countries south of the border reform their economic and political systems to create better lives for their citizens.
But we can't just abandon the law. The immigrants need to obey the law, and we need to hold our government accountable for enforcing it. That's how you get tough on immigration.
And if you really must have a new law, try this one. We can't pass new laws until we enforce the old ones. Period.