Okay, let me explain my term "law-abiding, illegal" immigrants. It wasn't a typo or poorly thought out.
Premise: A law that isn't enforced isn't a law. Illustration: If a town outlaws gardens but then allows its citizens to have gardens, punishing only those whose gardens exceed 500 square feet, it's obvious the law really just prohibits large gardens.
The Premise Applied to the Mexican Immigration Situation:
1. For many generations, Mexicans used work visas to cross into the United States and work half the year in the U.S. agricultural industry. After the harvest was finished, they went back to Mexico for six months, then came back here the next year, worked six months, then went back to Mexico. This went on for many, many years, to everyone's satisfaction.
2. Except the unions'. They didn't like it. They thought Mexicans were driving down wages or taking away union jobs, so President Clinton eliminated the work visa program, making it criminal for the Mexicans to continue to come here. (He didn't eliminate the program, but made it far more difficult and costly to comply, thereby effectively eliminating it in large part.)
3. But the United States ag industry (shocker, shocker) kept growing crops and didn't have workers to do the work, so they told the Mexican workers to sneak over and they'd give them jobs anyway.
4. Once the Mexicans successfully made the perilous trip, they didn't want to go back to Mexico then re-attempt the trip the following year, so they stayed. (Am I the only person who sat around with his buddies in the mid-1990s, drinking beer, and saying, "Man, where the $*(@! did all the Mexicans come from?"? It almost literally happened overnight, and I and my friends noticed it, though we didn't know why it had happened.)
5. The ag industry then sent bogus Social Security numbers for the workers to the IRS so they could remit payroll taxes that they withheld from the Mexicans. The IRS sent a response, saying, "That number doesn't correspond with our records." The ag employers then sent in a different bogus number (which obviously didn't correspond with IRS records), and the IRS accepted it . . . and the payroll taxes that were withheld from the Mexican workers. When that second bogus Social Security Number arrived, everyone knew there was an illegal alien working at that location, but no one did anything about it. A blind retard could've made the arrests, but nobody did. The only Mexicans deported were those who committed crimes.
6. So now the U.S. had a great situation on its hands: The Democrats had placated the unions, the ag industry had its workers (who were also now in a weakened bargaining position with respect to their wages), and, bonus!, the U.S. government was taking huge amounts of Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes (6.2% and 1.45% respectively) from the Mexican workers, with no corresponding balance sheet obligation to pay it back because those Mexicans will never be able to make a claim for Social Security or Medicare benefits.
7. All this, just as the baby boomers were nearing retirement and everyone thought the Social Security and Medicare systems would collapse.
8. And those millions of Mexicans have married, procreated, made lives for themselves here. Are they here "illegally"? Yes, no doubt. Are they criminals? Sure, I guess. But does anyone seriously think they did anything wrong that wasn't encouraged and condoned by our government? You can have that opinion, but it'd be wrong. Your government is to blame. Your government is corrupt, and it has abused the Mexicans in order to placate unions, give the ag industry cheap labor, and prop up its broken Social Security and Medicare systems.
9. And, if you want to put the blame where it really belongs, blame the Democrats. They crippled the work visa program to appease their union constituents; they gladly took Social Security and Medicare taxes from illegals in order to prop up their big-government gems; they're now using the Mexicans as pawns for political votes.
The law never made it illegal to immigrate here (at least, along the lines the mass of Mexicans did in the 1990s). The law all along only made it illegal to come here illegally and commit serious crimes.
The town didn't really outlaw gardens. It only outlawed big gardens.
(Addendum: I once asked an immigration lawyer colleague if my analysis of the work visa situation was correct, and he said, "Yes, in large part, though there's more to it.")