In his State of the Union Address, President Bush told America, "We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty." I'm all for that, so here's my idea: Let those who choose to come to America illegally or overstay their visas remain illegal, but let their minor children, whether born in America or not, become citizens.
No matter what Bush and Senate members wanted to call it, they were pushing for amnesty last year. And the biggest problem with amnesty is the magnet effect.
There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. A law that puts them on a path to citizenship would send a message to would-be immigrants across the globe that they can sneak into this country, break our laws and be rewarded.
Also, amnesty would have a multiplier effect. New legal residents can petition to allow a spouse or minor child into America. When they become citizens, they can bring in even more family members.
There is an ethical problem that comes in rewarding illegal behavior. First, people come or stay illegally in America. Next, they get fraudulent documents to work outside the law. You can't tell me that families can break those rules and still respect other federal and state laws.
Amnesty advocates argue that it is cruel to force families living in America to live outside the law. Is it? At some juncture in their lives, today's illegal immigrants decided that living and working illegally was acceptable.
They made their bed.
Having said that, I am aware that I am on the losing side of history. The modern world has seen a global Diaspora, with poor around the world moving from south to north, east to west and west to east. There is only so much governments can do to stop people hungry for opportunity and a safe and stable place to stake their futures -- and it is that spirit that has made America great.
Both political parties are doing the math. They see millions of new voters -- the children of immigrants and aliens who find paths to citizenship -- and they do not want to alienate this very woo-able voting bloc.
Politicians also are listening to employers -- men and women who write campaign checks and warn that they need immigrant labor to stay in business.
As far as many members of Congress are concerned, it is their job to pass guest-worker or visa programs to keep local businesses from closing up shop.
This much is clear: With a Democratic-led Congress and Bush in the White House, Washington will expand the number of legal immigrants in America.