DEALING with the immigration problem including the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States appears to be a case of locking the barn door after the horse is stolen.

To their credit, federal officials are attempting to rectify the problems. It makes one wonder, however, why corrective action wasn’t taken sooner. After all, those 11 million immigrants didn’t slip into the country all at once.

President Barack Obama in a report issued this week contends that passing immigration reforms would expand the economy 3.3 percent by 2023 and would reduce the federal deficit by almost $850 billion over 20 years.

The Associated Press reports that House Republicans favor a step-by-step approach to immigration, in contrast to the sweeping plan, which has been approved by the Senate and is backed by the White House. That approach fails to list specifics or timetable and doesn’t mention possible citizenship for those living in this country unlawfully.

Legislation, according to the Senate bill, would increase border security, provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million immigrants illegally in the United States, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republican leaders said in a statement that the administration “cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”

Some Republicans legislators, however, favor the comprehensive approach.

Calling for a “positive solution,” former President George W. Bush told ABC News: “It’s very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect and have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people. It’s a very difficult bill to pass. The legislative process can be ugly. But it looks like they’re making some progress.”

Boehner wants legislation on the matter to be passed before the four-week break for lawmakers in August, but he has noted he won’t put any bill on the House floor without the support of at least half of the Republican rank-and-file.

We can only hope that progress – in the right direction – will be made on a problem that has been troubling for too many years.