Officials in Riverside, N.J., have chosen the right course by rescinding the town's ill-advised crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Township officials have voted to repeal the law, which would have penalized landlords for renting rooms to illegal immigrants and businesses for hiring them.

The action Monday night came after the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project challenged the ordinance in court.

It's believed to be the first time that a town has backed down on this issue, out of the more than 120 municipalities nationwide that have passed or are considering anti-immigration measures.

The township cited a potentially costly court battle as a reason for ditching the law. But the bigger picture is that municipalities such as Riverside and Hazleton, Pa., which passed a similar ordinance, can't do the job that the federal government ought to be doing.

Congress is still shirking its responsibility to come up with an answer for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Lawmakers need to come up with a way to sanction the illegal immigrants already here but allow them an avenue to ultimate citizenship.

Gridlock on the problem in Washington has the practical effect of creating a national policy that pretends these undocumented people simply aren't here.

Towns like Riverside and Hazleton can't afford this inaction at the national level.

Municipalities end up providing services to their immigrant population; some towns feel overwhelmed and take action to essentially push the problem somewhere else.

Not only won't it work, it also pushes this vulnerable class of people even deeper into the shadows.

In July, a federal judge invalidated Hazleton's ordinance, saying local laws can't take precedent over federal immigration rules. That ruling should have jump-started a new effort in Congress, but so far it hasn't.

Perhaps the debate over the war in Iraq is taking up all of the time and energy in Washington, but immigration is another pressing concern that demands congressional action now.