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Catch the Concorde to Ellis Island

America's immigration system is in serious need of repair. Northeastern University estimates that 11 million immigrants currently live here illegally. This year alone, another million will enter through legal channels after navigating a snarl of red tape. For those who traverse either route - the desert or the bureaucrats -- once inside, they are no longer assimilating. Nearly 30% of immigrant households live below the poverty line, a third never finish high school, and 36% earn less than $20,000 a year. In Miami, immigrants account for 36% of all arrests, and they fill 22% of our prison cells nationwide. The old melting pot metaphor has broken down; Balkan adjectives are more apropos.

The management wizards at the Immigration and Naturalization Service have proposed a nifty solution: add a bit to bribery to the mix. Memo to the well-heeled members of the huddled masses: if you can cut a check, you can cut in line. In INS-speak, it's called a premium - a $1,000 payoff that guarantees a work visa will be processed within 15 days or less. Translation: if you can throw a curve ball or write computer code, come on in.

Gilding the doormat is no way to heal what ails us. America needs real immigration reform -- secure borders, manageable legal levels, and a renewed commitment to assimilation. Auctioning passage to the highest bidders disgraces a just nation and papers over the larger problems by appeasing those most able to object: corporate interests and wealthy entrants who would otherwise be left waiting in line.

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