The protests have happened, the right wing gas bags have spoken, and now it's time for some good old fashioned legislating. The interesting thing about the issue is that it splits the parties. The GOP is divided between business interests who want to keep a supply of illegal workers that they don't have to pay jack, and the element of the party that is, well, kinda racist. Or at the very least, "law and order" types who want all the lawbreakers deported. A third element is foward thinking strategy types who don't want to get crushed by Latino voters in the future.
Dems are divided as well, between working class voters who are hurt by low-wage immigration and middle class voters who benefit. Not to mention that most Latinos (outside of the Cuban community) are a pretty solid democratic voting bloc, one that Republicans would very much like to steal.
So the proposals now being debated are various forms of "get tough" enforcement, or some form of guest worker program to help illegals work legally. Personally I think the calls to "protect our borders" add up to load of crap. There are thousands of miles along our southern border and there is no way we are going to spend the money to fence it all and put border guards on every inch of it. The truly effective way to prevent illegal from working in this country would be to crack down on the people who hire them. But if the GOP has one guiding principal these days, it’s never, ever cause any trouble for big business.
So the two bills we have in progress now take completely different approaches. The House bill is classic "get tough" stuff. It makes helping illegal a crime, makes being an undocumented worker a felony, and does a whole bunch of stuff that brings hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets for protest marches.
The Senate bill, a product of the meeting of the minds of Senators McCain and Kennedy, allows for a process by which illegals can get legal. Not to outline the whole process, but you pay a fine, do your paperwork, keep on the straight and narrow and many years later voila you're legal. Needless to say, this is a very different approach from being convicted of a felony and sent back to your county of origin.
This week we see "How a Bill becomes a Law" plays when you have very different bills fighting to become law.