Donald Lambro

They have voted for a 700-mile fence, about half of which has been erected, along a 2,000-mile border. It sounds like a good idea, and it has been effective along urban areas of the border. But you get one guess where the illegals will cross in the future.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who lived in Mexico in his younger years, said this week, "If you build a 10-foot fence, someone will use an 11-foot ladder." Americans are justifiably skeptical about political promises, and this is no exception. Understandably, voters have low expectations of just how much our lawmakers can do, reflected in the latest Gallup Poll that gives this Democratic-run Congress a failing 29 percent approval score on its dismal record thus far.

President Bush came into office proposing a fairly simple proposition: that one way to alleviate the illegal-alien surge is to implement a system where a specific number of documented temporary workers can legally take available jobs -- especially in the agricultural fields -- and return to their country when they wanted.

The former U.S. chief of the border patrol earlier this year said the problem of illegal aliens can never be solved without some kind of legal temporary-worker program.

There are polls showing a majority of Americans supported that idea, but it wasn't as simple as it sounds. Democrats wanted to provide a path to citizenship for the 12 million to 20 million illegals who remain here, and many Americans feared that number would climb higher under any temporary-worker system. The result was a widening political division on the issue, worsened by the usual congressional proclivity to add hundreds of special-interest items to a bill that is now in danger of sinking under its own weight.

Legislative battles can be very unpredictable things, and anyone who tries to foretell their outcome does so at his own peril. No one would have given any odds on the president's Medicare prescription-drug bill passing, but it did by a narrow margin.

Still, it is hard to see Congress agreeing to any immigration-reform plan at this stage of the 2007-2008 presidential-election cycle during the last two years of the Bush presidency.

Ironically, despite conservative opposition to giving illegal aliens a path to citizenship, they would remain in the shadows of our vast economy as they have before -- granting them the ultimate amnesty.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.