I've followed the illegal immigration dilemma for decades and would like to see a rational solution to the problem ("An opportune moment for deal on immigration," Nov. 17).

Today there are more than 12 million undocumented immigrants in America, and the number continues to grow. But whenever a rational person speaks out with a proposal other than "path to citizenship," they are branded a racist, bigot, xenophobe or worse.

Illegal immigration involves human trafficking, misery, poverty, abuse and sometimes death. Everyone who studies the problem understands the risks people take to get into this country and how vulnerable they are to "coyotes," the guides who demand exorbitant fees for smuggling people across the border. Afterward, undocumented residents must "live in the shadows" in order to eke out a living.

Francisco Dominguez, whom you described as a worker in Fells Point waiting for a construction job, failed to mention how many times he had to work in unsafe conditions or was stiffed by unscrupulous employers. He also never said he paid taxes or contributed to Social Security and Medicare. To me, this man has been horribly exploited, as have so many other undocumented workers.

Instead of a "path to citizenship," why not create a visa program whereby people could come here to work, be protected under the law, find employment in jobs that don't endanger life or limb, and only then, if they want, be offered the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen?

Republican Rep. Andy Harris is floating this proposal, which makes sense to me. But the idea has been shot down by Gustavo Torres and his supporters at CASA de Maryland.

Your article failed to mention the 1986 amnesty, which never solved the problem. America has an enormous appetite for workers who "live in the shadows" and work below minimum wage.

Once the undocumented people who are here now gain a legal foothold, more undocumented folk will step in to fill their places. It's a cycle that never seems to end.

Rosalind Nester Ellis, Baltimore