Recognizing the reality (of 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States) would mean strengthening border security and employer sanctions, yes — and the Bush administration has begun that process. But it would also mean, simultaneously, supplying guest workers to industries that need them. And giving the illegal population — including 175,000 living in Oregon — an incentive to emerge, blinking, into the sunlight and regularize their status.
All three things have to happen at about the same time to avoid economic harm to the nursery business, agriculture, meatpacking and other industries that depend on these workers. Unfortunately, last year, a comprehensive reform effort fizzled in Congress. In the vacuum left by the federal government, a confusing tangle of state and local rules have proliferated, aimed at tripping up illegal immigrants and their employers.
As the editorial notes, President George W. Bush deserves credit for urging comprehensive reform, but it never found enough Congressional support. We shall see whether it happens during the Obama administration.