Whether America should welcome more high-skilled immigrants, as we discussed last week, is a relatively easy problem on Congress' plate. And yet, lawmakers still can't agree on how to handle it. So is there any hope of finding a solution for immigration writ large - a politically radioactive issue if there ever was one?
The Washington Post reported in December that the number of illegal migrants arrested at the border dropped about 25 percent in fiscal year 2011, after already declining for several years prior. A bad economy in the United States, tougher border enforcement and the rising fees for smugglers were all cited as contributors to the drop, and experts told the newspaper they believed the number of Mexicans heading to the United States and the number returning to Mexico was virtually the same.
But even with the decrease in border crossings, "securing the border" is often at the top of politicians' proposals to address illegal immigration. It's certainly an easier talking point than trying to come up with solutions for what to do with the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
Comprehensive reform - a goal of both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama - has gone nowhere. Another growing complication: births now account for more of the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States than immigration, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. That means there are a large number of families in which the children are citizens, but the older generations may not be.
So what to do with those families? Is it humane to deport parents who have children who are citizens? Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has proposed self-deportation as a way to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country - could the right incentives be provided for that system to work? What could President Obama do to work with Congress on comprehensive reform?
For that matter, what does it say about the United States that fewer people are trying to get in the country? Is that simply because it is harder to do, or are we not the bastion of opportunity we once were?