Is it amnesty if they’re already here?

As you already know, unless you’ve been standing in line to buy your iPhone, the Senate struck down an immigration bill that detractors say would have granted amnesty to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Ay. Que complicada la cosa. (This is so complicated.) As one astute pundit put it, the failure of the bill doesn’t mean that the millions who are here illegally will now go to their countries of origin.

Once again, our lawmakers stare in the face of greatness, blink, decide they enjoy their eyes closed and take a siesta from the immigration issue until a new president begins his term in January 2009.

January 2009. Hijole. Repeat after me, people. January 2009. We won’t even begin to deal with our immigration issue until January 2009. It’s enough to make you bang your head against the nearest wall or run through the streets overturning cars.

Oh, wait, this is America, where we don’t care enough to take to the streets and destroy public property, except after a Super Bowl.

The New York Times published an excellent analysis of the bill’s failure, in which it read the bill tried to do to much. I had the same feeling about two weeks ago while listening to our local NPR affiliate during one of my many commutes in the car. There was too much that could go wrong: the insufficient funding and hard deadlines for border security; a point system “to evaluate would-be immigrants, giving more weight to job skills and education and less to family ties“; the perception of amnesty, even though immigrants were required to pay a penalty and move to the back of the citizenship line, metaphorically speaking.

Instead of working together on one of these issues, we have nothing. And the illegal immigrant population continues to live among us, contributing to our economy and using resources while living under the radar.

Here’s the thing: as long as there is corruption and poverty in Mexico, the country of origin for nearly half of the illegal immigrant population, families will continue to come. Immigration legislation will mean nothing if the government doesn’t get serious about border security.

Part of me cringes as I write this because I sound like a right-wing wacko. Let me say at the outset that I am reaping the rewards of family members several generations ago who entered the country illegally. And like the photo above, there are those in my family who indeed believe the old adage “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” The reluctance to accept the United States’ victory over Mexico in 1848 — as bizarre as that may seem to some — is similar to those in the Southern United States who still feel contempt for Yankee Northerners.

Where do we go from here? As stated previously, the United States must get serious about security, not only at its borders but in other areas like Social Security. I can’t believe in 2007 we’re still using little perforated, paper cards that we receive in the mail. When an estimated half of the immigrant farm-worker population in the United States uses fraudulent Social Security numbers, the nation is screaming for a change.

Here’s another thought that will no doubt have my liberal membership revoked: immigration activists become incensed about illegal immigrants who use fraudulent Social Security numbers, get caught and can’t collect the money they paid into the Social Security system.

On one hand, I understand the desperation that drove them to pull a number out of the air to fill out an application to find a better life for one’s family. But the law is the law. I don’t think bad behavior should be rewarded.

So here we sit, in legislative limbo, a bird caught mid-flight with nowhere to land. I can only hope that when the issue returns to Congress, they will pass legislation that will begin to control this complicated beast of an issue.

Que complicada la cosa, indeed.

Further reading: NY Times information page on Immigration and Refugees.


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