Both sides also agree that a balanced, two-part approach is in order: stricter enforcement and improved border security on one hand and a pathway to legalization on the other. It's an excellent plan -- except for that first part.
To say we need more enforcement to seal the border is like saying we should re-invade Iraq. In the first place, we've already ramped up enforcement in every way imaginable. In the second place, it hasn't solved the problem -- and in fact has largely backfired.
We don't need "comprehensive" legislation. What we need is realism: Accept that millions of foreigners are living here illegally and are not going to "self-deport" -- and that we (and they) will be better off if they gain the protection of the law.
The draconian measures needed to get rid of them all are no longer politically possible, if they ever were. And they probably wouldn't work anyway.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." Enforcement enthusiasts think the same is true of their preferred option. From them, you would think every migrant sneaking across the Arizona border only had to get by an unarmed attendant sitting in a folding chair and playing Angry Birds on an iPhone.
In fact, the southern border increasingly resembles the Berlin Wall. Border security has become the poster child of big government programs that conservatives typically abhor. It never succeeds, and every failure becomes the rationale for additional funding.
Since 2001, the U.S. Border Patrol budget has tripled. The number of agents, which was about 4,000 in 1992, has ballooned to some 21,000 today. But the number of apprehensions has fallen by two-thirds in the past five years.
Latino voters broke heavily for Obama even though he set records for deporting undocumented migrants. Under him, deportations per month have been more than 50 percent higher than under George W. Bush -- and three times higher than under Bill Clinton.
If we haven't solved the illegal immigration problem, it's not for lack of enforcement. We've already done that part of the "comprehensive" approach.