The immigration bill that is currently before the US Senate reflects the situation with the immigration per se in one important way: both are a mess. Instead of being a melting pot of carefully chosen solutions, the 380 page long bill became a salad bowl of raw pet ideas thrown in by different, often conflicting, special interests. Presiding over the culinary process is the Commander-in-Chef, President Bush, who desperately needs a major legislation — any legislation to be called "major" — to salvage his abysmal second-term record.
Obviously, the most controversial provision of the bill is granting legal status to virtually all 12 million of illegal immigrants who currently live in the US. That would allow them to apply for residence visas and eventual citizenship. Critics of the provision, most of them predictably Republicans, charge that the legalization of people who entered the country illegally would amount to "amnesty." It is hard to argue with that: illegal border-crossing is a crime, and pardoning a crime is amnesty. The squabbling over the provision is so heated that it may well burn down the whole bill.
There is a solution to this controversy that nobody seems to be seeing. The illegal immigrants currently in the US should be granted permanent residency status, thus legalizing their de facto presence in the country. However, they should not qualify for the automatic citizenship five years later as the current law allows. The denial of US citizenship will become to illegal immigrants a "punishment" for their "crime."
Democrats would certainly argue that such a solution would create a tier of "second-class" Americans. True. But without a comprehensive immigration reform the illegal immigrants in America will remain "second-class" anyway. Perhaps, even third-class.