Commentary: Immigration system is badly broken

President Barack Obama went to El Paso on Tuesday to make a push for immigration reform. But because he has been so half-hearted in championing the issue thus far in his presidency, the visit comes off as little more than political pandering to a key group of voters as the 2012 presidential race begins to take shape.

Obama urged Americans to push a reluctant Congress to tackle the issue. It's clear to everyone, however, that Congress has no intention of fixing the country's broken immigration laws. First, Obama tabled the issue when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Now that Republicans control the House, the chances of real reform are zero. If it didn't happen when President George W. Bush was leading the way and Sen. John McCain was making it a central plank of his presidential primary bid, it sure won't happen now.

Obama knows this. But with Hispanics gaining electoral influence in key states, the president suddenly pivots his attention to the issue. If he earnestly wanted to improve the immigration picture, Obama would do better to take the unilateral steps available to him rather than offer lip service suggesting immigration reform is one of his high priorities.

Neither party has been willing to tackle the nation's snarled immigration laws. Demands to seal the border are fine, but they do nothing about the 11 million illegal immigrants already here. They also duck the real problem: U.S. employers demand immigrants' cheap labor. Immigrants respond to those potential paychecks. Because U.S. laws make legal immigration nearly impossible, they come illegally.

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