By Crystal Williams and David Leopold

Washington reminds us of Fernando Lamas, the Saturday Night Live character played by Billy Crystal who would interview various celebrities, often confusing them with someone else.  Always during the interview he would say, “You look mahvelous” and the sketch would end with, “It’s better to look good than to feel good.”

In Washington, it’s all about looking good too.  It doesn’t matter what the reality of any given situation might be.  All that matters is how it looks so that it can be packaged into a talking head sound bite and sold to the American public lock, stock, and barrel.

In the national “debate” on immigration, it’s all about looking good too.  It doesn’t matter if what is being said is accurate, or if what is being proposed is effective.  It only matters if someone notices you look tough on immigrants, even if what you propose or pass does nothing to fix our broken immigration system.

So we get a Senator once known for his integrity and thoughtfulness suddenly making up a phenomenon that doesn’t exist (“drop and leave”) and using it as a basis to argue that we ought to make stateless persons of innocent babies born in the U.S. to foreign nationals.  Then we get a group of Senators who only days ago stood for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform suddenly proposing—and passing—an enforcement-only measure that offers no solutions and accomplishes nothing more than adding to the national deficit.

In the meantime, we have approximately 11 million people, the vast majority of whom are here for no reason other than to better their lives and the lives of their families, living in the shadows and vulnerable to exploitation.  We have an over-taxed deportation system that can’t seem to figure out which way to turn.  We have a immigration detention apparatus in which 113 people have perished since 2003.  We have politicians all out-promising and under-delivering.  Nothing is fixed.  No progress is made.

It’s time to stop worrying about how it looks and start looking at how it works.  We know what needs to be done.  Now, will our so-called national leadership show a little courage and do it?  Or will they pretend, like Fernando did, that everything just looks “mahvelous.”