Last week was a really bad one for those of us who advocate for extensive reform of our nation's labyrinthine immigration policies.
On Monday, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children who have been dutifully waiting in line for years with their parents to obtain a visa -- an important step toward legal immigration -- must go to the back of the line once they turn 21.
The very next day, the GOP's second in command in the U.S. House lost a primary election to a political newcomer apparently because he wasn't strongly enough against immigration reform. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., had hinted there might be some way for Republicans to fashion a comprehensive immigration deal with Democrats.
His opponent, a professor at Randolph-Macon College, ran to the right of the staunchly conservative Cantor. He used Cantor's statement as evidence that, if re-elected, he would strike a deal that involved amnesty for the more than 11 million people who are in the country illegally.
Those primary election results will chill any other members of the party who might have wanted to work collaboratively with Democrats on an issue that the country simply must settle.
The two events taken collectively demonstrate the complexity and difficulty of crafting any kind of rational immigration policy and go a long way toward explaining why we have such a mess.
The court case revolved around Rosalina Cuellar de Osorio, a Salvadoran immigrant who was in line for seven years with her 13-year-old son, Melvin.
By the time they got to the front of line, it was November 2005. Less than six months before, her son Melvin had turned 21. Even though he had waited with his mother for years, he no longer qualified as an eligible child. That meant he would have to start the application process anew and wait, again, for years since there are only a finite number of family green cards issued each year under a per-country limit set by the United States.
Even though Cuellar de Osorio thought she was doing everything right, her son got left behind in El Salvador. She immigrated without him.
What makes immigration rules so maddening is just how difficult they are to decipher in the first place, and how often the messages sent to immigrants already here don't match the rules. The court even acknowledged their complexity in the ruling.
It is cases such as these that illustrate the need for comprehensive immigration reform, but it is elections such as Cantor's that tell us we shouldn't hold our breath.