Steve Chapman

Griswold suggests a big boost in the number of temporary worker visas, which would mean Mexicans and Nicaraguans would no longer have to undertake a death-defying trek across the Sonoran Desert, or squeeze into the trunk of a smuggler's car, for the privilege of working at a sweaty, low-wage job.

They wouldn't need to swipe Social Security numbers to get counterfeit documents. They would be far more likely to work on the books and pay taxes. They would come under the cover of federal and state labor regulations, so they would no longer undercut native employees.

They would stop enriching Mexican criminal organizations that make a business of human trafficking. They would gain more of a stake in participating in and preserving our way of life.

Xenophobes might fear that expanding legal immigration would produce a big jump in the foreign-born population. That's unlikely, because in this realm, the paradoxical often prevails.

Trying to lock down the border has not stanched the flow of unauthorized newcomers from the south, but it has made the trip much more dangerous and expensive. So illegal foreigners who once came and left now come and stay.

Thirty years ago, nearly half of undocumented arrivals departed within a year. Today, only one in 14 does.

If most of the 12 million illegal immigrants were to gain authorized status, many would feel free to return to their native countries, and some would remain there. Permitting more legal immigrants, oddly, could reduce the number of total immigrants.

If there is any lesson from recent experience, it's that foreigners are going to come here one way or another. The best option is to admit far more of them through wider legal channels. The alternative is to keep Arizona's southernmost ranches as the front line of a war the immigrants don't want and we can't win.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

©Creators Syndicate