The immigration blame game has long been locked in an overtime stalemate. Such partisan finger-pointing will never solve this intensifying national problem. Only working across party lines toward a balanced national solution will.

But that didn't stop President Barack Obama from taking another free kick at congressional Republicans last week. He charged that on immigration, "they've proven again and again that they're unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what's best for the country."

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, countered by reprising an extraordinary theme: "Speaker Boehner told the president exactly what he has been telling him: The American people and their elected officials don't trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue."

How did the powers that be in Washington reach this increasingly costly impasse on immigration?

Speaker Boehner's contention that President Obama can't be trusted to enforce immigration laws sounds remarkably harsh. However, the administration does suffer an acute shortage of credibility on this topic.

The ongoing chaos inflicted by recent massive border crossings of illegal immigrant children across America's southern border has further eroded that trust quotient.

So has the president's dubious habit of changing immigration policy via administration fiat rather than legislation.

Mr. Obama said again Friday that he intends to persist with such unilateral executive initiatives. As he put it during an Independence Day naturalization ceremony at the White House: "I'm going to keep doing everything I can do to keep making our immigration system smarter and more efficient."

But the president added that a lasting solution will require congressional action: "If we want to keep attracting the best and brightest from beyond our borders, we're going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken, and pass common-sense immigration reform."

And earlier last week, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, warned: "If the president insists on enacting amnesty by executive order, he will undoubtedly face a lawsuit and will find himself, once again, on the wrong side of the Constitution and the law."

Certainly the U.S. Supreme Court has recently given the president pointed reminders about the legal limits of his power.

That's not to say that America's long-term immigration dilemma - or the failure to address it with comprehensive legislation - started on our current president's watch.

In 2006 and 2007, President George W. Bush's hard pushes for bipartisan immigration reform were thwarted not by Democratic but Republican lawmakers. The sticking point for many conservatives, then as now, was the objection to any form of "amnesty."

Yet a de facto "amnesty" has long been in place for most of our nation's illegal immigrants, a group now estimated in excess of 11 million.

The authorities can't round up and deport them all. Even if they could, that enforced exodus would include many workers. And that would impose a heavy toll on significant segments of the U.S. economy, including agriculture, construction and the hospitality industry.

The right answer on immigration lies not on a patchwork of state laws but on the practical middle ground for fundamental federal reforms.

That will require the president and other Democrats to provide convincing assurances of stronger border security. The administration should take a positive step in that direction by doing its duty to enforce the immigration laws we already have.

An immediate opportunity for that would be resolving the ongoing crisis of those thousands of unaccompanied children, most of them from Central America, who have entered the U.S. over the past two months by sending them back to their own countries.

Meanwhile, more Republicans must accept the fact that the only way to end the intolerable immigration status quo is to accept some pathway to legal status for many undocumented workers.

Because ultimately, if this long-running political blame game continues to block reasonable immigration reform, we all lose.