When I think about the immigration protests of the past weeks and anticipate the big one on May 1st, I'm reminded of the advice we get from our family dentists: "Don't wait too long to take care of this. If you do, it will only get more painful and more expensive."
That's where the U.S. is with illegal immigration today. Twenty years after the Immigration Reform and Control Act amnesty, scant attention has been paid to enforcing immigration law. And since the first days of President George W. Bush's administration in 2001, not even a token effort has been made to curb illegal immigration.
Since Bush took office, about 5 million illegal immigrants have come into the U.S.
The result: illegal immigrants, emboldened by the total lack of resistance to their arrival and encouraged by Bush's misleading comments that migrants come only to do jobs Americans won't, are marching, demanding and fully expecting to win amnesty.
Yet history tells us that amnesty will only lead to more illegal immigration.
In 1986 about 3 million illegal aliens resided in the U.S.; today, today's total, according to Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns, is about 20 million.
Assuming that immediately after the 1986 amnesty the illegal alien count was effectively zero, then 20 million have arrived during the subsequent two decades.
Not only did the past amnesty not even come close to reaching its advertised goal of ending illegal immigration, the other half of the Bush concept—guest workers—has been a failure of equal magnitude.
In the 1986 Special Agricultural Workers (S.A.W.) program, fraud dominated, only a handful of guests went home and people supposedly here to work in the field soon left to find better jobs, once held by Americans, in construction and other trades.
One of the many problems the country faces in its deliberations about illegal immigration is that it is incorrectly perceived to be a victimless crime.
But the victim list—on both sides of the border—is long.
Last week, the Washington Times reported that an Alabama-based employment agency sent 70 U.S. citizens at contractor's requests to various Gulf States for post-Katrina clean up.
Shortly after the men began their work they were dismissed because, according to agency manager Linda Swopes, the employers told her "the Mexicans had arrived" and were "willing to work for less." [Arrival of Aliens Ousts U.S. Workers, by Jerry Seper, Washington Times, April 10, 2006]
And also last week, the BBC documented the case of Florida tomato-pickers from Mexico and Central America who are paid $3.50 an hour, nearly $2.00 an hour less than the federal minimum wage. [Florida Tomato Picker, BBC News, Photo Journal, April 2005]
The blame for today's dismal state of affairs lies with three parties.
What Congress will do when it reconvenes is anyone's guess. Through their marches, the illegal immigrants have put on a formidable display. But Americans—having seen the Mexican flag waving and anti-American sentiment of the first rallies—are finally awake.
If only sensible policies had been pursued over the last twenty years, today's divisiveness might have been avoided.