The Mexican border is a maze of perception and reality.

The reality is illegal aliens are not tortured or sent to Guantanamo. But the fact a good many Mexicans believe it's true is a problem for the United States and its push to influence Latin America.

The perception, in the United States, is that building a wall on the border will keep illegal immigrants out. The reality is those who want to get into the states are going to get in — with phony visas, by paying off border guards with Mexican ties, by digging tunnels, flying to Canada or simply running through the desert 10 times until they make it on the 11th try.

"It doesn't matter what the United States does," says Luis Casas, a U.S. citizen with roots in Mexico. "Latinos will find a way to counter it. That's been the history at the border."

One reason is big money is now involved. Before, those who "jumped the wire" into the states paid coyotes $1,000 to lead them. Today, they buy bogus paperwork for $5,000. As with all endeavors, from politics to property sales, when there's big money to be had, the most wily, willful and ambitious will surface to grab it. In short, those trying to get themselves and others north are proving to have more willpower than those trying to keep them out.

So it has been for decades with the drug trade.

So it is now with the people trade.

The difference is that immigrants, unlike illegal drugs, can actually have a positive impact on the economy and their communities here. But a system must be put in place to help that to happen.

The U.S. Congress, in its impotence, has abandoned immigration reform for the time being. With an election year on the horizon, no one wants to run the risk of antagonizing voters.

But those who want to see the problem truly solved should not take time off. Now is the time to begin laying the groundwork for a realistic immigration bill that actually benefits the nation.

If Americans — elected or not — can muster just half the willpower that illegal immigrants have shown in getting here, real immigration reform could be a done deal.