This makes for an interesting story from a reader:
"A confession: I lived in this country illegally for the best part of a decade. I came here on a work visa, but the company closed down. I loved New York, and I loved my work. So I started my own company, at one point employing a dozen or so Americans, all of whom paid taxes (as did I, as did the company). I also provided healthcare benefits for my employees and in general, despite my illegal status, made a pretty solid financial contribution to my adopted country.
Eventually, I became legal by paying a small fine (I don't recall how small, but it was 100s, not 1000s of dollars) receiving amnesty and a green card in return. I'm now married to an Amerian woman, still running a business, still paying taxes, and I'd like to think I am a net contributor to this country. People have a stereotype of illegal aliens that makes it easier for them to exercise their bigotry, but the reality is much more diverse and much more complicated."
I wonder how many of those immigrants who flocked to America in the last century and a half were what we now call "legal." I wonder how many managed to came here fraudulently, or quietly across borders, or by over-staying, and turned out to be the backbone of the country. There was a time when anyone who showed up was basically legal. I'm not advocating illegal immigration (and I have tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees to prove it). I am suggesting that it has always been part of this country's history. And it has contributed to the strength and diversity of this country. And it still does.