Dan Balz of the WaPo calls the failure of the "comprehensive" immigration reform bill in the Senate "a scathing indictment of the political culture of Washington." I'm not sure if I agree entirely. Not that I have much respect for the political culture of Washington, but this is an issue on which the American people seem to be deeply polarized, and when that's the case it's difficult to find an acceptable compromise. "Leadership" as Balz seems to see it would have meant imposing a bill that is deeply unpopular -- perhaps not justly so, but still notably so.
To be sure, as I've mentioned previously, various polls have showed that the most significant pieces of the compromise -- a path to citizenship involving fines, learning English, back-of-the-line, etc., a guest worker program -- garner substantial support. But this bill has been defined by its opponents -- and perhaps rightly so. There is much to dislike. I find the "points" system objectionable; it would allow the government to define what qualities the society and economy "need" in immigrants, and it would not be subject to change for 14 years. That's giving government a lot more credit for forecasting trends than it deserves. It may be that those who have the cojones to get here on their own are really the most qualified.
The problem, of course, is that failure to pass some kind of bill means acquiescing in the status quo. I'm not sure that's the most objectionable possible outcome, but almost every political figure who discusses immigration, especially the hartdliners, claim to believ that it is utterly intolerable.