We have had de facto amnesty for decades. Thru democrat and Republican presidents. Thru democrat and Republican control of congress.
Many illegal immigrants overstay their visas, not sneak over the border.
Here is a fairly balanced compilation of illegal immigration data, well worth the time to read it (which I did, before describing it as "fairly balanced"):
The distribution chart in that article was interesting:
State of Residence of the Illegal Alien Population: January 2000 and 2006
State of residence Estimated population in January Percent of total Percent change Average annual change
All states 11,555,000 100 37 515,000
California 2,930,000 25 13 53,333
Texas 1,640,000 14 50 91,667
Florida 980,000 8 23 30,000
Illinois 550,000 5 25 18,333
New York 540,000 5 - -
Arizona 500,000 4 52 28,333
Georgia 490,000 4 123 45,000
New Jersey 430,000 4 23 13,333
North Carolina 370,000 3 42 18,333
Washington 280,000 2 65 18,333
Other states 2,950,000 26 69 200,000
Per capita numbers would have been useful, because that would give a sense of how "visible" illegals are. I looked at the US state populations here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_population_by_state
and got a few per capita figures (ranked by per capita number, highest to lowest):
per capita illegals 7.64% (i.e., 7.64 per every 100)
per capita illegals 7.54% (i.e., 7.54 per every 100)
per capita illegals 6.2% (i.e., 6.20 per every 100)
per capita illegals 5.01% (i.e., 5.01 per every 100)
per capita illegals 4.90% (i.e., 4.90 per every 100)
per capita illegals 4.83% (i.e., 4.83 per every 100)
per capita illegals 4.27% (i.e., 4.27 per every 100)
per capita illegals 3.76% (i.e., 3.76 per every 100)
per capita illegals 2.75% (i.e., 2.75 per every 100)
To me the per capita figures are interesting because
(a) they explain why Arizona is such a flash point on the illegal immigration issue - not simply because of the percentage, but because given the state's small population, a figure of 7.54% is more likely to stick out in AZ than would 7.64% in California; also, I would posit that part of this difference lies in the fact that CA has historically had large - legal - hispanic communities, so illegal immigrants from Central and South America more readily blend in to existing communities than I think they would in AZ; and
(b) they help to explain why there seems to be such a disconnect in the national discussion over illegal immigration between the Western states, particularly Texas and Arizona, and the (mostly liberal) Eastern states, including DC, where the political decisions are ultimately made. It's a lot easier to dismiss concerns over illegal immigration when you live in NY, with a percentage of just 2.75% (basically, 1/3 of AZ's percentage), or in DC, where the total population figure isn't even in the top 10.
I'm not saying that either side is correct - I don't - but I am saying that this disparity helps to explain why the two sides are talking past each other more than to or with each other.