How to sort out what years of congressional sessions have failed to do and politics have further entangled….?

In 2006, a series of huge immigration rallies were staged across the country as Congress battled over President George Bush’s ’pathway to citizenship’ plan, and people on both sides of the emotinally divisive issue demanded some resolution. It didn’t happen.

It is to the great discredit of the U.S. government that essentially nothing has happened, one way or the other, to get a grip on the massive immigration problems in this country. Left unchecked and practially ignored, people are suffering while the very human realities behind the laws and rhetoric get kicked around like a political football.

Speaking of laws and rhetoric…the Justice Department is suing Arizona over its new immigration law that Secretary Eric Holder hadn’t even read when he began the process of preparing the federal lawsuit against it….for what it might do, allegedly. Never mind that it was written to apply existing federal law. And never mind that other states are violatating federal law and the feds know that and choose to ignore it.

It’s all political. Obama had to address it and his speech reflected political urgency, and disarray.

He criticized the “ill conceived” Arizona law authorizing state and local law-enforcement officers to ascertain the legal status of those stopped for other reasons, just as federal officials already can, and presented two serious arguments against it — that it discourages cooperation with local police and subjects Hispanic-appearing Americans to questions others would not be asked.

But he also said it would put pressure on state and local budgets without stating how (isn’t that Arizona’s problem?) and seeks to “enforce rules that ultimately are unenforceable.” But federal law has required legal immigrants to carry proof of status for decades, and if that law is unenforceable, we might as well throw up our hands.

The Obama administration’s slapdash approach to immigration is, as even The Economist noted, not good enough. It’s not that he didn’t have a plan.

…Mr Obama’s plan is both the only practical and decent plan and, in essence, the same one the Republican administration of George Bush pushed for.

(though Mr. Obama and his team make a policy of blaming Mr. Bush and the Republicans for everything wrong)

So why the cynicism? Because making a speech, and having a plan, are not the same as doing something. And Mr Obama does not intend to do anything right now. He is not proposing a particular piece of legislation. At most, his speech is a promissory note, a reminder to America’s Hispanic voters that they can at some point count on the Democrats to do the right thing.

Spot on.

Hispanics voted in droves for Mr Obama in 2008 but their ardour has cooled: the proportion approving of his performance fell from 69% in January to 57% in May, says Gallup.

Hence, concludes the jaded half of Lexington, Mr Obama is merely pandering to an important segment of his political base. And this comes soon after a cynical manoeuvre by Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, who in April contrived to give the misleading impression that Congress intended to enact immigration reform before the end of this year.

Politics at the expense of people struggling for safety, security and rights. People on both sides of the divide.

Mr Obama is president; he chooses his own priorities. Had he not promoted health care above immigration, a comprehensive reform might have been put before Congress before the mid-terms made it toxic. But the bigger point is that if he cannot move on what he calls this “moral imperative” this year he must do so in 2011, before the presidential election of the following year casts an equally chilling shadow. That means he should be bending every sinew to preserve relations with the small band of senior Republicans who support the cause and whose co-operation will be no less essential in 2011.

Instead, Mr Obama in his speech and Mr Reid in his stratagem seem to have gone out of their way to inject immigration into the mid-terms and place exclusive blame on the Republicans—even though many Democrats in Congress are no less obstructive.

Few American media are so honest.

And nothing could be better calculated to alienate potential Republican partners than this week’s move by the Department of Justice to invoke the supremacy clause of the constitution and to strike down the new law in Arizona that gives the police wider powers to identify illegals.

…but suing Arizona will baffle and anger the 60% of Americans who say they support it. Only the federal government can fix what is wrong with immigration…but not with a lawsuit.

And so voters are baffled and angry, politicians are nervous and still nothing is getting done, especially by the federal government.

Some Democrats, even in Arizona, are fearing an election backlash over immigration, as President Obama sues Arizona over its new immigration enforcement law and pushes Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

“My concern is that the federal government is suing the state of Arizona, ironically, over the ability to enforce immigration laws — where if the federal government had been doing its job over the years, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place,” Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., said.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democratic nominee for governor, urged the Obama administration to back off Arizona’s new law, which allows state and local authorities to ask people for immigration documents during unrelated enforcement encounters – such as traffic stops.

The president appears to be out of step with public opinion on immigration.

Will this ever come closer to resolution?

“Until Washington D.C. realizes that they are being absolutely and totally failures at border security, you can’t talk about immigration reform,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.

Yes, you can. At the polling place in November, if not sooner.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....