Let's face reality. The figurative shooting may still be going on, but the Second Mexican War is over. We won the first one in the 19th century. We may have lost this time, though most of our government remains in denial.
Illegal aliens from Mexico and other Latin countries have too many powerful allies. Besides, the mission of driving them out is impossible.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the Catholic Church have become a potent and improbable coalition for allowing 11 million illegals (an estimated 1 million in Georgia) to become permanent residents. Chamber members see them as cheap labor. The declining church and struggling labor unions see more filled pews and more check-off dues providing renewed hope for their future.
Georgia's Catholic bishops, William D. Gregory of Atlanta and J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, have written a letter to their parishioners urging support of legalizing residency for undocumented Hispanic migrants, nearly all Catholics.
Whether the illegals are granted "amnesty" or "guest worker" permits doesn't matter. We simply cannot deport 10 million people. Our government does not have the ability to collar them or the capacity to ship them out. We also cannot afford to let the multitudes continue to live outside the law. The toothpaste is out of the tube; the genie gone from the bottle.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is on the right track. While denouncing the idea of amnesty, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman also says he wants to make certain farmers are not harassed or penalized for hiring migrants, even if some of them slipped into the country.
Translation: Don't impede the flow of Mexican labor to American farms. U.S. agriculture is not interested in a major roundup of illegals that could hinder farm production.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., says he opposes granting amnesty until after our borders are secure. Our borders may never be fully secure, though they can certainly be made less porous. Change "amnesty" to "forgiveness with penalties." Call it the plan to "Welcome Workers to What's Left of the U.S.A."
The debate may turn out to be moot, at least for the present. The Senate failed last week to produce a bill to begin untangling the immigration knot. Some observers now believe Congress has become too gun-shy of the controversy to approve any meaningful measure in this election year.
The federal government let us down. Immigration and naturalization programs fell apart. Not only did the feds allow hordes of impoverished Hispanics to cross our border, they left the door open for God-only-knows how many illegal Islamic zealots bent on destroying us.
That is history. Consider the future. The Congress and president ought to be thinking about how to assimilate productive residents. They should dwell on making over the country into a new American melting pot. We ought to discourage continuing a mosaic of foreign cultures and languages within our borders.
New residents should be required to become proficient in English. Perhaps some should even be rewarded for adopting English. To allow the United States to become a multilingual nation could be the beginning of our end as the dominant world power. Bilingual countries don't work very well. See Belgium and Canada.
A few years back, state Sen. Mike Crotts of Conyers introduced legislation to make English the state's sole official language. Crotts had joined a national "official English" movement, which has since faded. The then-Democratic controlled state Senate declared Crotts' bill "too radical." He was all but laughed out of the General Assembly, which may be understandable for a body whose members do not exactly exemplify the best of the English-speaking world.
In today's atmosphere, Crotts' measure seems modest and moderate. Our current Legislature passed an anti-immigrant bill that has reinforced the state's reputation for extremism and fanned xenophobic passions. However, the measure, which started out with the "toughest in the nation" label, was amended to death before its toothless corpse was finally passed and sent to Perdue.
With more enlightened leadership, state government could have moved decisively to soften the blow of the inevitable - the conversion of a Hispanic horde into permanent residents or even productive citizens.
Proposing legislation to make illegal immigrants' lives miserable in Georgia is hardly the right approach. Severe punishment for their corporate employers also is out of the question - especially in a state government that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of big business.
Let's get on with solutions to a problem created by political leaders who failed to watch out for our interests. This time, we should pay closer attention and pray for a bit more intelligence and a little less table-pounding.
Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. Write him at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.billshipp.com. His column appears on Wednesday and Sunday.