There is currently a bipartisan bill before Congress that takes realistic aim at getting a grip on illegal immigration. Among other provisions, it would allow the issuance of three-year work visas to undocumented workers.
Opposition to the bill illustrates the problem in seeking a political solution. Those on the right don't want to grant any sort of legal status to immigrants who have broken the law to get here. But this proud position is no longer realistic. Their presumed answer, massive deportation, would trigger equally massive social unrest and political polarization.
Those on the left don't want to acknowledge that there is a problem at all. (Some for altruistic reasons, and some for political reasons -- they want more people voting Democratic.) They assign the label "racist" to anyone who so much as suggests a serious effort to limit immigration. This too is unrealistic.
As is nearly always the case, the force needed to break this political logjam is an angry majority of citizens. That day is coming, but not because of folks having to read Spanish billboards or fly to India for affordable health care.
It will come when the U.S. government, for security reasons, is forced to keep a tight administrative tab on every last one of us. Call it national ID cards or something else, it amounts to a guarantee of safety and security coming at the price of privacy. And when that seemingly inevitable day comes, Americans are not going to like it.
Their initial response will be resentment toward immigrants. Their eventual reaction will be to toss out their elected representatives for new ones. And those new ones might be extremists ready to exploit anger for votes.
Decision time is coming, one way or the other. President Bush and Congress need to make that time soon. If they don't, the eventual answer may be closed borders. Either that or -- in effect -- no borders at all.