For months, Republican presidential hopefuls steadfastly avoided any discussion of immigration, except to rotely demand tougher and stricter border enforcement.
Now we know why: They have no answers. In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's Florida primary, the candidates finally addressed the subject, seeking to woo Latino voters with fantastical fixes that purported to address the immigration crisis but in fact would do nothing to resolve it.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, for example, believes that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country will simply "self-deport" after his stepped-up enforcement of immigration laws makes it too difficult to for them find work. Under his plan, a national identification card and broader use of an electronic database that lets employers verify workers' immigration status would encourage many to leave.
But that ignores the fact that the economic downturn has already made jobs scarce, yet few illegal workers have left. Or that undocumented immigrants, who make up nearly 5% of the workforce and more than half of all U.S. agricultural workers, are already subject to harsh working conditions and low wages. Furthermore, despite his claims to the contrary, the increased use of ID cards and the E-Verify system will not prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants, but will only drive them further into an underground economy.