05/29/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Next Big Push: Immigration Reform

The low rumble has started - can you hear it where you are? It's the sound of the nation's next big reform movement.

Immigration reform! Immigration reform! Immigration reform! The movement is gaining momentum.

Now that the massive health care reform bill has been signed into law (never mind for now that its constitutionality is being challenged by several state attorneys general) the next big agenda item is what to do with the more than 12 million illegal aliens in our country.

Regular readers know why I don't use the politically correct phrase: "undocumented workers." To me it's like calling a drug dealer an "undocumented pharmacist" or someone who robs banks an "undocumented money handler." I don't say this to personally denigrate those who are in our country illegally, but it is an undeniable fact that the 12 million in question are breaking the law every single day they remain in this country.

Who wants to have to live like that? And what kind of country forces such legal limbo on people year after year?

We've got to act and there are only three alternatives. Let the broken system continue, try to deport all 12 million illegals (yeah, good luck with that) or come up with a functioning, responsible immigration policy. One that is heartfelt and humane but serious and stern enough to steer those who are already here - helping America function every day - become legal taxpaying citizens.

Truly effective immigration policy must include iron-fisted border protection. It must come down hard on unscrupulous employers who knowingly hire inexpensive illegal workers. And it must act swiftly to remove any worker convicted of a serious crime or one who fails to live up to their documentation responsibilities.

Now, having said all that, I'd like to directly address those who would like to make America their permanent, legal home.

Go ahead with your peaceful rallies, like the recent "March for America" in Washington D.C. where tens of thousands of immigration reform supporters hit the streets. But, please, stop with the demands that this country somehow owes you something. Be thankful that immigration agents didn't wade into the crowd to arrest the illegals at your rally. Be grateful that you've gotten to live here as long as you have. And realize that I, along with a lot of other Americans, am turned off watching your foreign flags flutter in the breeze while you chant, "Give us change, give it now!"

I was heartened at the enormous turnout and peaceful nature of the Washington event. I hoped our nation's lawmakers took notice and became energized to finally tackle the immigration issues that have been allowed to languish for so long. But then I heard the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, declare, "This is our Selma!"

It was a shameful thing to equate what happened in Selma, Alabama in 1965 - a series of marches by African American citizens demanding that the voting rights law be upheld so they could freely exercise their right to cast a ballot - to today's struggle by illegal aliens. Those brave and bloody marches were to make sure laws already on the books were respected and enforced. This struggle is on behalf of those who openly violate our laws. No comparison.

Is America perfect? No. Is it better than where you hail from? Apparently, or you likely wouldn't be here. Have we allowed our immigration situation to become a mess? You bet we have and shame on those elected officials who've failed to tackle the massive problem year after year. Shame on us, the voters, for not insisting that something definitive be done a lot sooner.

Look, no thoughtful human being can fail to acknowledge the contribution these workers make to our economy. We should never lose sight of the plight of illegal aliens, driven by the desire to provide better for their families, who live every day in fear that immigration agents will knock on their door. But at the same time they must admit they are in a situation of their own making, held hostage by the consequences of their choice to live in a country illegally.

Yes, I now hear the low rumble rolling across the land. I'm glad the immigration issue is picking up steam. But if there's one lesson to be learned from the painfully divisive health care battle we all just endured - we have to keep America's best interests at heart. Not the best interests of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, or even the best interests of those trying to step onto the pathway to citizenship.

If you've never written to your senator or congressman, do it now. Insist on a completely open, honest and focused debate on immigration policy - one that puts America first. Then, remind your elected official that you vote.

Diane Dimond can be contacted through her web site: