ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, more than half a million people gathered peacefully in downtown Los Angeles, stunning the country and igniting a productive (if occasionally shrill) debate about how to bring U.S. immigration policy in line with reality. Now it's up to Congress and President Bush to finish what those marchers started.
The demonstrators were protesting a grossly punitive immigration bill in the House of Representatives and asking for a legal path out of the shadow economy. Immigration restrictionists, who until that moment held the upper hand in the debate, were rendered nearly speechless at the sight of so many families cheerfully spreading a message of upbeat inclusion.
The Senate reacted to the ensuing season of protest by laboriously cobbling together a series of immigration packages that, while flawed, at least combined visa reform and a legalization process with enforcement. But the bills fell prey to election-year populism and a lack of political will to tackle a complex problem, leaving the country with unrealistic visa allotments and an estimated 12 million people living outside the law.
Overwhelmed (and overexcited) local governments jumped in where Congress failed to tread, passing a patchwork of in-state tuition laws, legals-only housing codes and taxes on remittances to Mexico.