Arguably, the one issue on which the US public and elected officials are most disconnected from one another is the porous US-Mexico border, and the 11 million illegal immigrants who have migrated to the US through it.
At least 70% of the US population wants the border to be sealed, and immigrants to, at the very least, come here through legal means. Any politician who takes strong action on this matter is bound to gain tremendous popularity, from voters of both parties. So why does nothing happen? None of the popular explanations hold up, as there are just as many politicians, lobbies, or corporate interests that would oppose each as would support them.
1) The border is open because businesses want cheap labor. This cannot be, because illegals use hospital emergency rooms and trauma centers for free, without having paid taxes into the system. This causes the cost of healthcare to rise, and premiums that corporations have to pay for their employee medical insurance rises. These costs are huge, and more than offset any savings from being able to hire these illegals at low cost. Corporations that don't employ many low-skilled workers, such as software companies or investment banks, would thus oppose this.
2) The border is open because 'of the Hispanic vote'. This is obviously not the case, as in the 2004 election, Hispanics voted 39% for Bush and 61% for Kerry. That would give the GOP, which controls both houses of Congress, a strong incentive to seal the border, if anything. But they are making only minor efforts.
Furthermore, the suggestion itself is derogatory to law-abiding, legal Hispanics, who certainly don't want illegal immigrants coming here any more than non-Hispanics do. Do whites want illegals from Canada? Do blacks want illegals from West Africa? Then why would Cuban-Americans or Puerto-Rican Americans want illegal Mexicans to come here, just because of a common language (not even a common race, in many cases)?
3) The border is open because to seal it would be racism. Vicente Fox has said as much, even though every single person of power in the Mexican government is white. Fox has also said that Mexicans in the US do work that 'even blacks will not do'. Mexican postal stamps show caricatures of blacks that would be a national scandal in the US.
There are a number of extremist groups that want to push a radical agenda of creating Mexican states-within-a-state, where US laws and language do not apply, and eventually return the US Southwest to Mexico's possession. The number of American's that would oppose this is far larger than the few fifth-column proponents of it. Plus, non-white politicians could push the agenda. Plus, law-abiding Hispanics don't want this to happen either.
Bogus accusations of racism from fringe groups have not stopped our War on Terror. Why is it stopping this?
4) The border is open because sealing it would ruin our relationship with Mexico. Mexico is a nation where drug trade and corruption have created a wealth distribution that is among the most skewed in the world. The poor underclass has no employment options, and Mexico wants them to go to America not only to get rid of them, but also because they remit $50 billion a year back to their families in Mexico. Mexico's entire economy is dependent on this flow of money.
There is no other country in the world which has the luxury of dumping the poorest 10-15% of its population into another country, and get $50 billion per year injected into its economy in return. Despite this, the US acts as if it has no leverage over Mexico. It is a colossal failure of the US State Department that despite the huge dependency that Mexico has on the US, the US is not even a position to ask Mexico for basic favors in America's hour of need, such as a contribution of 5000 troops to our coalition in Iraq. They can't even do that much for us?
So why does America do nothing to seal the border?
I thought and thought about it, and finally an explanation dawned on me.
After the birth of the baby boom generation concluded in 1964, the number of babies born in the US dropped. Furthermore, Roe v. Wade passed in 1971, and since then, 43 million Americans who may have been born, were not. This resulted in a demographic pit, where the number of babies born was suddenly and permanently lower than in prior decades. Whether abortion should be allowed or not is a separate issue, but what is indisputable is that there are millions of fewer people as a result of it.
Many things that support the US economy, from rising real-estate prices to social security, depend on the US population growing 1% per year, and the ratio of young people to old people remaining fairly stable. European countries are already on the brink of catastrophie due to the shortage of young people in their societies.
US politicians of both parties might have made a sacred agreement to keep the border open so that young Mexicans, born after 1971, can come here and fill the demographic gap that exists in the US. US politicians don't reveal this to the public, because it is too difficult to explain and would result in pressure to overturn Roe v. Wade, lower taxes, provide incentives to families with children, and other political minefields.
That is why they let this continue. This is the best explanation I can think of. Why else would both parties choose to do nothing, despite so much public pressure, yet not explain why?
This is also the worst possible way to solve the demographic shortfall problem, as the current practice :
1) Encourages people to break the law. If they broke one law to get here, why not break more after coming here? In California, one third of the prison inmates, each costing the taxpayer $50,000 per year, are illegal immigrants.
2) Has ensured that much more than 50% of the 11 million illegals are male. Women are less inclined to go to the lengths of crossing miles of parched desert, hide in car trunks, or be smuggled in by drug dealers. The gender imbalance only leads to more crime and social problems within these communities.
3) Has ensured that these illegals are concentrated in border states rather than spread throughout the nation, thus making it harder for them to assimilate into American society. Legal immigrants do go to all major cities and college towns, and thus assimilate, but these illegals instead become a majority in towns near the border, changing them into being more like Mexico and less like America.
4) Has ensured that the majority of immigrants are from one language and culture. If this goal was pursued through a policy of legal immigration, then we would have gotten Chinese, Indians, Russians, Brazilians, etc., who would have to interact with each other and the only language they could do it in would be English. Assimilation would be automatic.
The US may have avoided a massive demographic collapse like what Europe is tumbling into, but the same could have been achieved in so many better ways. This policy of achieving a demographic goal through condoning massive illegal immigration of mostly men from one country will cost American society for decades to come.
What will ultimately result in the border being sealed? One of two simple things :
1) If the US government decides that enough young people to fill the demographic gap have arrived, and no additional illegals are needed, then the border will be quietly sealed under the guise of some other reason.
2) If a large terrorist attack occurs in the US, and it is found that the terrorists arrived through the porous border with Mexico, then it will be sealed almost immediately, through popular demand by a furious public.
Hopefully, reason 1) occurs before reason 2).