Political analysts observe that immigration is splitting the GOP. In fact, the issue is splitting the country because it is so complex. I feel conflicted. I want to welcome immigrants in America. I have met people who came here illegally and worked hard, long hours in their pursuit of the American dream. I want them to join the American family. I also know that America can absorb only so many people. The influx of illegal immigration has depressed wages for low-skilled workers. That's not good for America's poor.
It also can't be good when illegal immigrants have so much contempt for a country's immigration laws that they apparently feel not only that they have a right to break those laws -- but also that they can break U.S. law, and deserve to be rewarded with citizenship.
Washington can respond to this schism in one of two ways: with honest compromise or dishonest legislation. Today, dishonesty is winning. President Bush says he wants a "comprehensive bill" that strengthens enforcement and provides workers for the jobs he says Americans won't take. But the result won't be comprehensive. It will be more cheap labor and more dollars thrown at border enforcement, but to little effect.
If a new law required a reduction in illegal immigration before legalization, then Washington would have an incentive to reduce the number of undocumented workers -- perhaps for the first time in years.