Since the Washington policymakers have been unable to resolve the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants, another opinion, no matter how unlearned, could hardly impair the discussion.

To shore up my knowledge of immigration, I intended to appoint a committee of expert consultants. Of course, the most knowledgeable people on the subject are Native Americans. However, they declined, arguing that after-the-fact discussion was futile.

Illegal immigration is not a new phenomenon. In the late 1800s, we passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. But the San Francisco fire in 1906 destroyed many records, and thousands of Chinese got into the country illegally by claiming to have been citizens prior to the fire.

Then we adopted a quota system in 1924, primarily to limit the number of immigrants from the Slavic countries. So they migrated to Canada, rested a year or two, and then came to the U.S. as Canadians.

Republican politicians are recollecting what happened when unlimited immigration let all of those Irish into the country in the 1850s. As soon as they got their citizenship papers, or even before, the Irish joined the Democratic political machines in the major cities and the Democrats have controlled Boston and Chicago ever since.

From current polling and elections, it appears that millions of Mexican immigrants, if admitted, would do the same thing. They look very Democratic.

Because political benefits are at stake, Democrats see an advantage in speeding up citizenship for the illegal immigrants. To be competitive, it would be necessary for Republicans to reconsider their traditional resistance to social programs, such as Obamacare, food stamps, etc. That would be gut-wrenching.

I have a proposal that would rescue Republicans from such a painful experience. 

First, we must concede that neither party has an immigration policy. Republicans admit they have none. The Democrats don’t have one either, although they have an idea on paper.

Democrats are advocating something like a 13-year waiting period (sort of like being in purgatory) and then a fine of $600. Many illegals can’t wait 13 years and they do not have $600.

Besides, can they trust these people? As soon as they show up to file for citizenship, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service would probably grab them and take them straight back to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It’s too risky.

With neither party offering a working plan, here is my proposal to cut the Gordian knot.

Half of the illegal immigrants are located in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

They are not aliens in a foreign land. This is their ancestral home - territory that was stolen from their great grandparents following the Mexican War. Mexicans are the natives; we are the immigrants.

So let’s give it back to them. That would solve half of the problem because 5.5 million of the known illegals live in these five states.

From a political point of view, the change would be a wash. The Republicans would be happy to see Nevada, California and New Mexico leave; the Democrats would be overjoyed to see Texas and Arizona back in Mexico.

As for representation in Congress, a total of 60 Democrat and 47 Republican seats would be transferred to Mexico. It would be a wash in the Senate where Republicans and Democrats would each lose five seats.

Looking at this, Republicans will see that they would lose 13 more House seats than would the Democrats. However, with Nevada would go Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Mexico and that ought to be worth 13 seats to Republicans.

This may not be a polished proposal but it is better than no immigration policy at all.

(Lloyd Omdahl, of Grand Forks, is a former lieutenant governor, state tax commissioner and state budget director)

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