There are 12 million stories about those who have illegally immigrated to the U.S. They range from heart-wrenching to opportunistic. Each is different in many ways, and the same in one: Each person broke federal law in getting here.

That’s why the discussion of illegal immigration is so divisive. While many Americans see the people behind the statistics, many counter with, “What part of illegal don’t you understand?”

Democratic and Republican presidential administrations for decades have tried to come up with effective and fair means of addressing illegal immigrants that ranged from deportation to amnesty.

President Barack Obama even tried an end-run around Congress after that esteemed body refused — again — to do anything substantive about the issue.

Though politicians tend to fall back on a combination of generality, placation and prejudice when they speak about illegal immigrants, many of the arguments circle around to what Congress needs to do to address the issue.

Most people agree that the border must be secured to prevent the free flow of people in and out of the U.S. Without that, we have no immigration policy.

Most people also agree illegal immigrants must pay a fine for breaking the law in order to be considered for any type of legal permanent residence. And they must not have broken other criminal laws.

They must also learn to speak English. It makes no sense to foster a nation in which the people do not share a common language. For the sake of the nation, and for the immigrants, they must learn English.

Much hangs in the balance, including the integrity of our country and an acknowledgment that, from its very beginning, this is a nation of immigrants.

Of particular concern to farmers and others is the fact that about 75 percent of our food is harvested or tended by illegal immigrants, according to Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan organization made up of 500 CEOs and mayors.

Each year, farmers and food processors are put at risk. They need to hire enough people to pick and process the crops. Though they insist that workers possess proper documentation, it is too often falsified. This puts farmers in a quandary. They need workers, but they have little choice but to accept at face value the paperwork that’s presented.

The other option is obtaining H-2A guestworkers. While this assures that the workforce will be legal, it is expensive and time consuming and relies on federal agencies whose priorities are set in Washington, D.C.

We are often told that congressional action on immigration will take place “after the next election.”

As it turns out, there’s always another election, allowing politicians to duck and cover one more time, leaving immigration reform — and a growing list of other pressing matters — unaddressed.

As the fall general election approaches, we urge our readers to listen closely to the congressional and presidential candidates. Brush aside the bombast and the generalities and look for positions on immigration reform that are practical, affordable, effective and offer a long-term solution.

They all know what that solution is, they just aren’t willing to display the courage it takes to make it a reality.

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