But that isn't the only thing that matters. And in fact, there is reason to believe there is increasing impetus for doing something on immigration -- at least among the American people, if not Congress.
The Public Religion Research Institute has been asking people for years to rate this country's immigration system, on a scale from "completely broken" to "generally working." And for all the failures of comprehensive reform advocates of both parties, you can at least say this: They have convinced Americans that there is indeed a problem.
In March 2010, 54 percent of Americans said the immigration system was broken -- either "completely broken" or "broken but working in some areas."
Today, that number has steadily risen to a whopping 71 percent. And just 26 percent say the system can generally be characterized as "working," down from 41 percent in 2010.
Now, "broken" is a pretty broad statement. And just because you think the immigration system is broken doesn't mean you want a path to legal status or citizenship. We're guessing plenty of folks think it's broken because of insecure borders. (Though, we would point out that those borders were even more porous a few years back, before the recession, so that doesn't really explain the shift.)
If nothing else, this poll suggests that the issue is gaining recognition. Until that recognition turns into urgency, though, Republicans will continue to side with their base. For now, even many people who think the system is broken are far too casual about it to actually force Congress to act. It's just not a priority for them.
In other words, despite the overwhelming acknowledgment that the system is "broken," don't hold your breath.